PEORIA — SIU's men's basketball team started Saturday's game at Bradley with 11 healthy bodies, but finished with 10.
Backup center Stevan Jeremic watched from the bench with a boot on his right foot after spraining his ankle earlier this week, and Sekou Dembele, the Salukis' backup 5 man, left the game right before the half with a lower leg injury. Dembele, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound redshirt freshman forward, was hurt after colliding with Braves guard Darrell Brown on one of the first half's final plays. SIU was also without starting guard Aaron Cook, who missed his 11th straight game trying to come back from a broken bone in his right (shooting) hand.
Brown came downcourt in the final seconds, turned left to get around a screen, and collided with Dembele as he drove the left part of the lane with 4.6 seconds to go. Dembele fell to the Carver Arena floor in obvious pain, holding his leg. Athletic trainers from both teams attended to him, ultimately wrapping his left leg above his calf and helping him walk off the floor under the arms of trainers.
SIU coach Bryan Mullins did not have any additional information on Dembele's condition following the game but said he was alert.
"He was talking and moving, in terms of the scary stuff, he was all OK. I think it was the same leg as the stress fracture he had earlier this year, but I'm not 100% sure," Mullins said.
The Salukis led by three at the half, but fell 67-48 in their search for their first true road win of the season.
Dembele suffered a stress fracture in his left leg earlier this season and missed the first seven games recovering. He played nine minutes Saturday, missing his only shot from the field but converting 1 of 2 free throws. Without him or Jeremic, a 6-11, 250-pound junior, SIU (8-9, 2-2 Missouri Valley Conference) went small with 6-6, 210-pound guard Karrington Davis guarding Bradley's two centers, 6-11, 230-pound Koch Bar and 7-1, 240-pound Ari Boya.
Bar scored only six points for Bradley (12-5, 3-1) but blocked five shots and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. A lot of the Salukis' hard-fought drives to the bucket were sent back by Bar or altered. Point guard Lance Jones finished 1 of 8 from the field, center Barret Benson went 2 of 8, and Marcus Domask, who led SIU with 11 points, missed 8 of 12 shots.
Bradley started the second half with a 9-0 run.
"In the second half, the defense and rebounding ignited us," Bradley coach Brian Wardle said. "It got us going. I thought we played really well. Koch played great, defensively. I thought Ja'Shon (Henry) was great, defensively, and we got out, had a little more pace on offense, drove the ball harder downhill, stronger drives, better inside-out kickouts. Just overall better basketball in the second half."
Brown led all scorers with 21 points and Henry, a 6-6 sophomore forward who filled in for the injured Elijah Childs, had 16 points and nine rebounds. Henry added two of the Braves' nine blocks to help them wrap up their 14th straight home victory.
Domask grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double this season. Benson scored four points and had 10 rebounds, seven of them at the offensive end. SIU matched Bradley's 14 offensive rebounds, but also nearly matched its 16 turnovers with 15.
Harwin Francois missed some time in the first half after taking a shot to the nose/face, but returned to the bench before the first half ended.
SIU broke open a 20-all game with a 7-0 run, only to see Bradley cut the lead to three. Dembele split a pair of free throws for the lead, and Suggs added two more at the stripe after drawing a foul. Domask pushed SIU's lead to five after catching a pass behind the defense and slamming it home with two hands.
Francois' jumper at the 3:50 mark put the Salukis up 27-20. Ville Tahvanainen's driving layup ended the run.
SIU is next at Loyola Thursday night. Tipoff in Chicago is set for 7 p.m.
On Twitter: @THefferman
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