CARBONDALE - Justin Bocot, Adam Templeton and Ryan Wedel made it tough to figure out if Southern Illinois University's men's basketball team lost or Drake won Saturday night at SIU Arena.
Bocot called a time out the Salukis didn't have in the final seconds, helping the Bulldogs turn a one-point lead into a three-point one. Templeton led all players with 22 points and 13 boards in the Bulldogs' 70-65 decision that snapped their six-game skid. Wedel, 0-for-7 from behind the 3-point line before the last three minutes, hit his last two tries beyond the arc, including the winning basket with 35 seconds to play.
When it was all over, SIU (9-5, 2-3 Missouri Valley Conference) closed a two-game homestand with its first three-game losing streak of the season and Drake (6-11, 1-4) earned its first league win.
"You just keep plugging away, and like we told them, good things will eventually happen when you have good people who do right things and work very hard," Drake coach Mark Phelps said.
The Bulldogs simply followed the underdog plan of attack. Drake, the Valley leader in 3s per game, never trailed by more than seven points and didn't take its final lead until the final minute. SIU, which came off its worst performance of the season Wednesday night against Northern Iowa, couldn't put DU away when it had the chance.
"Maybe it's good for us to go on the road, because we've gotta go and find ourselves," said SIU coach Chris Lowery, who will take his team to Creighton and Evansville this week. "We've gotta understand what it means to take care of the ball, do stuff together, because I thought we played in a way, before we started turning it over, that'd we have a chance to win. But when you don't do the little things like blocking out, reversing the ball, taking care of the ball, making sure we get a shot each possession, which extends the game, this is what happens. You let people hang around, and they hit shots."
Up by three after a Kevin Dillard 3-pointer, the Salukis forced Josh Young to miss an off-balance jumper, but couldn't keep 6-foot-10 freshman center Seth VanDeest off the offensive glass. VanDeest came up with the rebound, was fouled by Anthony Booker, and made 1-of-2 foul shot to get his team within two 65-63.
Templeton kept the Bulldogs in the running for the upset by securing the offensive board off the missed free throw. Templeton came up with a ball on the right side of the lane that SIU center Nick Evans could not, and eventually set up Wedel for the game-winning shot. Wedel's 3-pointer from the left side of the arc put DU up, 66-65.
Tony Freeman then forced a 3-pointer from the left corner that bounced off the rim to the right. The 6-4 Bocot came up with the offensive rebound, but called time out with 16 seconds to go. Unfortunately, SIU had called its last time out with 1:29 to play. The Salukis were hit with a technical foul. Wedel made both free throws at the other end to put DU up three. Carlton Fay then missed a long try from behind the arc to seal the victory for the Bulldogs, who had blown eight second-half leads before Saturday night.
SIU was left to wonder how the same team that pulled out three games in the final minute in late December and early January found itself on its longest skid of the season.
"We take a bad shot down one, like we're down three, and that's ... we've gotta go to the basket," Lowery said. "And then we talk about not having time outs. That's the last thing every coach said, and then we call time out, so it's a focus. It's a focus with our team, and we've gotta get it back."