CARBONDALE — Before he laid up two of his game-high 21 points Sunday, SIU center Kavion Pippen got not one, but two Bradley defenders in the air with a well-timed pump fake along the baseline.
Pippen's bucket with 18:05 to go in the game pulled the Salukis within one at 34-33. Elijah Childs' dunk on the ensuing possession pushed Bradley's lead to three, but SIU (17-10, 9-5 Missouri Valley Conference) went ahead for good behind back-to-back 3-pointers from Aaron Cook in a 74-57 victory.
Pippen, who was named the Missouri Valley Conference newcomer of the week for the second straight week on Monday, made 10 of 12 from the field and tied his season-high with four blocks in 27 minutes. Pippen's 21 points gave him at least 10 for the fifth game in a row, and 21st time this season.
"Coach (Brad) Autry has done a great job with his development," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "He's starting to get more comfortable. He hit that wall. We've backed off him in practice a little bit. Jonathan (Wiley) has helped because we don't have to sub him."
Wiley, a senior forward who tore his ACL, PCl and MCL in his right knee in late December, returned for the first time in 2018 Sunday. Wiley played 13 minutes off the bench, allowing Pippen to go 27 and backup forward Rudy Stradnieks to play 12.
Pippen played 40 of a possible 45 minutes in Thursday night's loss at Illinois State, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound right-hander just missed his fifth double-double of the season Sunday with eight rebounds.
Most of Pippen's points came against single coverage down low. After sinking 25 of 35 from the field in his last three games, two of them victories, that could change when Missouri State (17-10, 7-7) comes to SIU Arena Wednesday night.
Pippen made 8 of 12 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, and had three assists to go with 17 points in SIU's 79-77 road win at Missouri State earlier this season. With the Salukis' sixth win in their last seven games Sunday, they moved into sole possession of second place in the Valley with four games to go.
SIU trails first-place Loyola (21-5, 11-3) by two games, but hosts the Ramblers on Senior Night Feb. 21. The Salukis close the regular season at home against Missouri State, at Indiana State Saturday, at home against Loyola and at Evansville Feb. 24. Loyola hosts last-place Valparaiso Wednesday night, goes to Evansville Sunday, then ends at SIU and at home against Illinois State.
Illinois State (14-12, 8-6) and Drake (14-13, 8-6) are tied for third place. The Salukis split with both those teams.
Missouri State forward Alize Johnson, the league's preseason player of the year, was named MVC player of the week. Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, six assists and two blocks in the Bears' first back-to-back wins since Jan. 14-17 over Indiana State and Valparaiso at home. Missouri State is 10-3 at home this season but 4-6 in true road games.