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SIU Tulsa Basketball

SIU guard Armon Fletcher split Tulsa's Zeke Moore and Elijah Joiner Friday night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Fletcher scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists in 27 minutes to help the Salukis beat the Golden Hurricane 79-69. 

The Missouri Valley Conference could have three teams 0-3 in the league by the end of Tuesday night.

Bradley (8-7) which is coming off its first 20-win season in nine years, is 0-2 in the MVC and has to play at Valparaiso (9-6, 2-0). Missouri State (6-9, 0-2) is at Indiana State (9-5, 1-1), and Drake (11-4, 0-2) hosts SIU (9-6, 2-0). Loyola (9-6, 2-0) has been able to right the ship after a disappointing non-conference schedule and may get guard Lucas Williamson back this week.

The opening weekend's other big surprise was Illinois State (8-7, 1-1) falling on a last-second, half-court short at Valparaiso and beating Evansville 58-46 for its first league win. The Redbirds entered Valley play losers of four of their last five games. 

Here are this week's MVC Power Rankings: 

No. 1 — Loyola Ramblers (9-6, 2-0 MVC)

Previous rank: 2

Last week: Beat Drake 85-74, beat Indiana State 79-44 / This week: At Evansville (7-8, 1-1 MVC) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network), Evansville, Ind.; host Illinois State Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN2), Chicago

Notes: The Ramblers' scoring defense (60.5 points allowed per game) leads the MVC and is one of three league teams in the top 100. SIU (89th, 67.5 ppga.) and Bradley (89th, 67.5 ppga.) are the other two. Loyola has held five teams this season under 50 points. ... Guard Lucas Williamson, who broke his shooting hand in November, returned to practice last week and could return this week. 

No. 2 — Southern Illinois Salukis (9-6, 2-0 MVC)

Previous rank: 4

Last week: Beat Missouri State 75-70, beat Northern Iowa 58-51 / This week: At Drake (11-4, 0-2) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Mediacom), Des Moines; host Valparaiso Saturday, 3 p.m. (MVC-TV/ESPN3), Carbondale

Notes: SIU held Northern Iowa to 31.5 percent shooting last week, its second-best defensive effort of the season. It was the Salukis' best effort against the Panthers since 2009 at Drake. ... Center Kavion Pippen is shooting 62 percent from the season, which would be the second-best in school history if he can keep it up. Pippen averages 11.9 points per game, tied for second-best on the team, and 5.1 rebounds a game, third-best. 

No. 3 — Valparaiso Crusaders (9-6, 2-0 MVC)

Previous rank: 5

Last week: Beat Illinois State 58-56, beat Missouri State 82-66 / This week: Host Bradley (8-7, 0-2) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN+), Valparaiso, Ind.; at SIU Saturday, 3 p.m. (MVC-TV/ESPN3), Carbondale

Notes: Markus Golder's half-court heave that beat Illinois State was the No. 1 play on the ESPN "SportsCenter" top 10 plays that evening. It was the first game-winner of Golder's career, at any level. ... Even with Valparaiso's postseason history, the Crusaders have only started 3-0 in conference play only twice since the turn of the century. ... In Valparaiso's nine wins, it is shooting 41.5 percent from the 3-point line. In its six losses, it is shooting just 23.8 percent.

No. 4 — Indiana State Sycamores (9-5, 1-1 MVC)

Previous rank: 1

Last week: Beat Bradley 65-60, lost 79-44 at Loyola / This week: Host Missouri State (6-9, 0-2) Tuesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN3), Terre Haute, Ind.; at Evansville Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN3), Evansville, Ind.

Notes: Indiana State is 6-0 when scoring 71 or more points this season. ... The Sycamores are 49-36 under coach Greg Lansing in games decided by five points or less, including 4-0 this season. Indiana State is 7-0 this season in games decided by 10 points or less. ... Four of Indiana State's next five games will take place in Indiana, three of them at the Hulman Center. 

No. 5 — Drake Bulldogs (11-4, 0-2 MVC)

Previous rank: 3

Last week: Lost 82-72 in two overtimes at Evansville, lost 85-74 to Loyola / This week: Host SIU (9-6, 2-0) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Mediacom), Des Moines; at Northern Iowa Sunday, 3 p.m. (MVC-TV/ESPN+), Cedar Falls, Iowa

Notes: New Drake coach Darian DeVries played at Northern Iowa. ... The Bulldogs were leading the MVC in scoring and assists per game with guard Nick Norton, but in two games without him (he went out in the double-overtime loss at Evansville), Drake has 29 assists and 30 turnovers. ... Sophomore Noah Thomas and freshman Garrett Sturtz are Drake's new primary ballhandlers now that Norton tore his ACL. 

No. 6 — Illinois State Redbirds (8-7, 1-1 MVC)

Previous rank: 7

Last week: Beat Evansville 58-46, lost 58-56 at Valparaiso / This week: Host Northern Iowa (6-9, 1-1) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago/ESPN+), Normal; at Loyola Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN2), Chicago

Notes: The Redbirds will play six games on Tuesday, the second-most games on that day in program history. Illinois State played seven games on Tuesdays during the 1936-37 season. ... Illinois State is 82-22 at Redbird Arena under coach Dan Muller, including 6-2 this season. ... Illinois State is fifth in the Valley in offense (73 points per game) and ninth in scoring defense (74.3 points allowed per game). 

No. 7 — Bradley Braves (8-7, 0-2 MVC)

Previous rank: 6

Last week: Lost 65-47 to Northern Iowa, lost 65-60 at Indiana State / This week: At Valparaiso (9-6, 2-0) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN+), Valparaiso, Ind.; host Missouri State Saturday, 7 p.m. (ESPN+), Peoria

Notes: Guard Darrell Brown scored a season-high 32 points against the Sycamores, 25 in the second half. It was two points shy of his career-high set against Hofstra in 2016. ... Bradley is tied with SIU for the top field goal percentage defense in the Valley at 41 percent after 15 games. 

No. 8 — Evansville Purple Aces (7-8, 1-1 MVC)

Previous rank: 8

Last week: Lost 58-46 to Illinois State, beat Drake 82-72 in double overtime / This week: Host Loyola (9-6, 2-0) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network), Evansville, Ind.; host Indiana State Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN3), Evansville, Ind.

Notes: The Aces' first two Valley opponents shot 37.3 percent from the field and 20.5 percent behind the 3-point arc (9 of 44). Loyola leads the Valley in shooting (50.5 percent) and Indiana State is the top 3-point shooting team in the league (40.4 percent). ... Guard Marty Hill scored a career-high 24 points against Drake and has scored 10 or more in seven of his last nine games. 

No. 9 — Northern Iowa Panthers (6-9, 1-1 MVC)

Previous rank: 10

Last week: Won 65-47 at Bradley, lost 58-51 to SIU / This week: At Illinois State (8-7, 1-1) Tuesday, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Chicago/ESPN+), Normal; host Drake Sunday, 3 p.m. (MVC-TV/ESPN+), Cedar Falls, Iowa

Notes: Coach Ben Jacobson announced forward Austin Phyfe will miss the rest of the season with a medical issue and that forward Tywhon Pickford has returned to practice but is still battling a sore shoulder. ... Guard Trae Berhow has averaged 12.3 points per game in his last three games. His 11 points and 11 rebounds in the loss to the Salukis gave him his first double-double of the season. 

No. 10 — Missouri State Bears (6-9, 0-2 MVC)

Previous rank: 9

Last week: Lost 75-70 at SIU, lost 82-66 to Valparaiso / This week: At Indiana State (9-5, 1-1) Tuesday, 6 p.m. (ESPN3), Terre Haute, Ind.; at Bradley Saturday, 7 p.m. (KOZL/ESPN+), Peoria

Notes: Forward Kabir Mohammed had 13 points and eight rebounds in his first start against Valparaiso Saturday. Mohammed, a transfer from San Jacinto (Texas) College, went 3 for 3 at the free-throw line, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots in that loss. ... Over its last four games, the Bears are averaging 8.5 turnovers a game, compared for 13 per game for the season. 

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todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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