CARBONDALE — Aaron Cook's back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half helped SIU's men's basketball team pull away from Bradley Sunday for a big 74-57 victory.
Cook, the Salukis' fourth-leading scorer this season, took only one shot in 16 minutes in the opening half at SIU Arena. The 6-foot-2 sophomore's 3-pointer from the top of the key tied the game up at 36. Cook then got a piece of Darrell Brown's step-back jumper at the other end, and dialed up SIU's last lead of the game with a 3 at the 17:02 mark (39-36).
Cook scored nine of his 12 points in the second half.
"In the second half I made an emphasis on coming out and being positive, and being ready to shoot when my teammates swung me the ball, so, whenever I got it I was ready to shoot it, and the shots fell," he said.
Cook's two 3-pointers ignited an 11-3 run and a 44-37 Saluki lead with 14:58 to play.
"I just had to get one to fall, and if it came back around, I was going to shoot it again," Cook said.
SIU (17-10, 9-5 Missouri Valley Conference) never trailed again and moved into sole possession of second place in the league when Valparaiso topped Illinois State.
"That was it," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "It was a kerosene. They were kerosene shots."
Elijah Childs' tip-in with 14:35 to go pulled Bradley (17-10, 7-7) within five, but it was as close as the Braves got the rest of the way. Cook answered with his third 3-pointer of the half for an eight-point edge that went to 10 after Kavion Pippen converted a layup with 13:46 to go.
Pippen scored a game-high 21 points battling flu-like symptoms. The 6-10 junior center made 10 of 12 from the field, his only free-throw attempt, and grabbed eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Pippen also tied his season-high with four blocks to help the Salukis hold Bradley to 38.2 percent shooting (21 of 55).
The Braves unraveled in the final five minutes, finishing the game with one field goal in their third straight loss. Bradley missed 10 of its last 11 shots, with Childs' dunk with 1:45 to go the only bucket. SIU went up 65-55 on Marcus Bartley's 3-pointer with 5:31 to play, and finished the game with layups from Pippen and Lloyd and five free throws in front of an announced crowd of 4,830 fans.
The Salukis shot 64 percent from the field in the second half and finished the game 26 of 46 (56.5 percent).
"Our defense was horrendous. Effort-wise, talk-wise, we stopped guardin,' and that's what happens when you're on the road and you stop defendin,'" Bradley coach Brian Wardle said. "We couldn't get a stop, and then we missed some good looks, we also turned the ball over. Give Southern Illinois credit, they also made some tough 3s, too, during that stretch, that really opened up the game for 'em."
Jayden Hodgson's 12 points led Bradley. Brown and Nate Kennell added 11 each.
Lloyd scored 12 points and Armon Fletcher had nine. Tyler Smithpeters led the bench with eight points, and senior forward Jonathan Wiley, playing in his first game of 2018 after tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee in late December, scored four points off the bench. Wiley grabbed four rebounds and added one of SIU's 17 assists in 13 minutes.
Wiley's return helped SIU play nine guys more than a handful of minutes for the first time in weeks. Only one of them played more than 30 minutes, Fletcher, who played 32. The Salukis hadn't had a game where only one player went 30 or more minutes since blowing out North Carolina A&T 102-64 on Dec. 19, 2017.
"Brendon Gooch bought us good minutes today, Rudy bought us some good minutes," Hinson said. "It's the first time we've played in the last 16 games that we only had one guy at the 30-minute mark, and that was Armon at 32 minutes."