Aaron Cook scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds and found Kavion Pippen for a dunk in the opening six minutes of Wednesday's home game against Indiana State.
Cook, a sophomore guard who had scored 27 points, total, in his previous five games, knew something different was happening after his first 3-pointer fell through.
"I tried to get my flow going," Cook said after SIU's 82-77 win. "I felt like the past couple games I've been struggling to shoot the ball. I just wanted to take the open shots, like coach (Anthony) Beane has been telling me, and get the easy buckets, and I just think that's what I was doing, just finding open shots and taking advantage of it."
Cook scored 18 of his career-high 25 points in the first half. He made 8 of 12 from the field, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, and 6 of 9 free-throw attempts. The 6-foot-2 righty handed out four assists, turned it over once, and had two of SIU's three steals.
"I was just sitting back and watching the show, pretty much," said SIU guard Armon Fletcher, who had 17 points. "I didn't have to do too much. I was just watching him do his thing, you know? Him and (Sycamores guard) Jordan Barnes know each other pretty well. I knew he was going to come into this game ready to go, just by the look he had on his face during practice and stuff."
Barnes, a St. Louis native like Cook, scored 23 for Indiana State (10-11, 5-4).
The Salukis (13-9, 5-4 Missouri Valley Conference) are much better when Cook is an active scorer, coach Barry Hinson said, and his production coudn't have come at a better time. SIU headed out on the road Friday for its first look at Valley preseason favorite Missouri State (15-7, 5-4) Saturday at 5 p.m. The Salukis play at Drake (12-11, 6-4) Tuesday in Des Moines.
"You have to pay attention to him, and that opens everybody up, and, (Wednesday), he got to the rim, and he got to the free-throw line," Hinson said. "How many free throws did he shoot? Nine? And I told him, I told him and Sean Lloyd. Sean Lloyd only got there twice (Wednesday), but I challenged those guys to get to the free-throw line. Specifically, Aaron and Sean. Those are the two guys we have that can beat people off the dribble."
Lloyd made both of his attempts at the stripe against the Sycamores. SIU made 22 of a season-high 31 free-throw attempts. Indiana State made only 10 of 13.
Missouri State, which has dropped two straight, has attempted only 151 free throws as a team this season, tied for the eighth-most in the Valley. Only Northern Iowa (110 of 149) has attempted less than the Bears and Drake. Evansville had attempted the most heading into the weekend, 179 and had converted 141 for a league-best .788 percentage.
Scouting the Missouri State Bears (15-7, 5-4 MVC)
Hometown: Springfield, Missouri
Coach: Paul Lusk (103-113 at MSU, 105-136 overall)
Leading scorers: F Alize Johnson 14.9 ppg., F Jarrid Rhodes 9.1 ppg., G J.T. Miller 8.3 ppg.
Leading rebounders: F Alize Johnson 11.5 rpg., F Obediah Church 5.1 rpg.
Notes: Missouri State is 9-1 at home and 3-5 in true road games this season. The Bears' only loss at JQH Arena this season was in their third game of the season Nov. 17, 2017, against North Dakota State. The Bison beat the Bears 57-54. ... SIU is 2-6 in true road games. The Salukis have lost their last three road games after beating Northern Iowa on the road to open conference play. ... The Bears will be without forward Reggie Scurry, their third-leading scorer, after he and backup forward Abdul Fofana developed blisters after going through a cryotherapy session at the arena on Monday. They missed Tuesday's game at Bradley and are expected out "weeks," according to Lusk. ... Lusk played three years at SIU (1992-95), reaching three NCAA Tournaments under former coach Rick Herrin. Lusk scored 1,610 points, and served as an assistant coach under Matt Painter in 2003-04 when the Salukis went 17-1 in the MVC. ... Hinson went 167-117 at Missouri State. Since taking over SIU's program in 2013, he is 7-5 against his old team, including five straight wins in the series.