CARBONDALE — SIU's third-leading scorer has been more valuable giving the ball to someone else during the Salukis' stretch of three victories in their last four games.
Junior guard Aaron Cook scored 15 points in Saturday night's win over Evansville, more than any other guard, but also accounted for 14 or 15 more points with seven assists in 36 minutes. SIU (13-12, 6-6 Missouri Valley Conference) made 7 of 20 from the 3-point line and 47.3 percent from the field (26 of 55) to move into a tie for sixth place in the league entering tonight's game against Drake (18-7, 7-5).
"I've been trying to get more assists and trying to get the guys going instead of getting my own shots," Cook said. "That was something they talked to me about, was being a true point guard, and that's the role that I'm trying to fill. I guess (Saturday) was one of those nights where that kind of showed. Just trying to keep it going going into late in the season, and, hopefully, into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament."
Cook's 50 assists during Valley play are two off the league lead (Missouri State's Josh Webster has 52 in 12 conference games). His seven assists against Evansville (10-15, 4-8) helped all five Saluki starters reach double figures at SIU Arena. SIU's starting guards, Cook, Sean Lloyd and Eric McGill, combined for 41 of SIU's 78 points.
"He can leave you standing by yourself if you're not careful, because he can really create for himself, create for others," Drake coach Darian DeVries said. "He shoots it, obviously, so, I really like his game, and he's a tough matchup."
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Cook made 5 of 10 from the field against the Purple Aces, including 2 of 4 from the 3-point line. The St. Louis native is 20 of 40 from the field since the Salukis' 75-50 loss to Loyola, with 54 points, 16 assists, six turnovers and eight steals. Cook is 36 of 92 behind the arc this season (39.1 percent), but has to continue to pick his spots to spot up, according to coach Barry Hinson.
"This kid scored nearly 30 points sharing the basketball, and when he shoots a lot of 3s, that's not his game," Hinson said. "But when he goes and gets other guys shots, we're really good."
SIU was the opposite of good in its first meeting with the Bulldogs, who have won six of their last eight and three of their last four road games. The Salukis trailed 24-9 at the Knapp Center in the opening seven minutes Jan. 8, fell behind by 21 at the break and ultimately lost, 82-70.
Drake, which features the top offense in the Valley (76.3 points per game), scored the second-most points the Salukis allowed this season. Only UMass, which beat SIU 84-62 in Las Vegas right before Thanksgiving, scored more this season.