The streak is over at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa, after SIU's men's basketball team topped Northern Iowa 56-53 Thursday night.
The Salukis (9-5, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) won for the first time ever at the Panthers' facility that opened in 2007 after hitting 7 of 10 3-pointers in the second half. Against the eighth-best scoring defense in the country, point guard Marcus Bartley hit three straight triples over a 5-minute stretch to bring SIU from a five-point deficit to a four-point lead.
Here are three more things we learned from the Salukis' biggest win of the season:
No. 1 — Bartley was clutch
He wasn't supposed to even play at Northern Iowa (SIU coach Barry Hinson reiterated after the game he was never untruthful about Bartley's condition, and that he did not expect him to go), but when he did, he was terrific. Bartley saw a chiropractor earlier in the day Thursday, he felt good warming up before the game, and never sat down.
He had some costly turnovers in the first half, which sent him to the bench for a few minutes, but Bartley came out firing when the Salukis needed a big bucket. Then he hit two more big 3s, and helped SIU develop the confidence to make its next three 3-point attempts. Northern Iowa could never catch up.
No. 2 — Once again, these Salukis can D-up
SIU couldn't seem to find a rebound that mattered until the final two minutes, but otherwise did the job, defensively, on the road.
The Salukis doubled preseason all-conference forward Bennett Koch well, recovered well on shooters in the second half, and kept Northern Iowa off the free-throw line. Koch turned it over four times and missed 6 of 8 shots, and the Panthers shot 34.5 percent in the second half after making 44 percent in the first.
SIU moved to 8-0 when holding opponents to 41 percent shooting or less.
No. 3 — Team effort
As usual, SIU's big win featured several stars. Bartley came off the bench for 12 big points, two assists and four rebounds. Sean Lloyd scored only six points but played great defense, competed through an eye injury, and came up with a big rebound late in the game before landing on his back.
Tyler Smithpeters hit two 3s, played some pretty good defense and came up with a big loose ball to help SIU keep a possession late. Aaron Cook played a career-high 35 minutes, and scored nine points to go with four assists. Kavion Pippen scored 14 points and grabbed five boards in his first Valley game, and largely stayed out of foul trouble.
Six Salukis grabbed four or more rebounds, including backup forward Jonathan Wiley, who added three of SIU's 10 assists. Now SIU returns home to face Drake, and is expected to get preseason all-conference forward Thik Bol back for the first time this season.