EDWARDSVILLE — Armon Fletcher gave his hometown something to remember him by Saturday at SIU-Edwardsville, converting the first four-point play of the season for SIU's men's basketball team in an 82-61 victory.
Fletcher, a 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward for the Salukis, canned three corner 3-pointers and found Thik Bol for the first reverse dunk of his career midway through the second half. Fletcher's four-point play put SIU (5-3) up 53-37, and after Anselm Uzuegbunem missed a jumper at the other end, he grabbed the rebound and found Bol for the quick flip at the other end. Fletcher made 8 of 10 from the field, including 5 for 5 behind the arc, for a game-high 24 points in SIU's third straight victory.
Fletcher became the 46th player in school history to score 1,000 career points or more.
"At first there were some nerves coming out. I missed my first couple shots. I just stayed at it, stayed aggressive," Fletcher said. "Just playing free and having fun, it helped me out throughout the game and it helped me get easy baskets."
Eric McGill had 12 points off the bench, Sean Lloyd and Thik Bol added 11 each, and Aaron Cook had 10 points to help SIU close out the series with the Cougars in the win column. The Salukis won for the seventh time in the last eight meetings since the sister schools began playing one another again in 2011.
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Led by Fletcher, SIU shot a season-best 59.6 percent from the field (31 of 52) at the Vadalabene Center. The Salukis made 11 of 20 from the 3-point line and 9 of 11 at the free-throw line. Coach Barry Hinson was excited about another road win, but disappointed in SIU's 17 turnovers.
"I wasn't real excited about how we played today, I don't mind tellin' you that," Hinson said. "We didn't play well. We turned the ball over today and we nearly got outrebounded. We had 17 turnovers, and we just can't do that. I thought we were loose with the ball. I thought we were lackadaisical on defense, especially our bigs in the first half, but I'll take a 21-point road win ugly, good-looking, pretty. It doesn't matter. The objective is to win."
SIUE (1-5) dropped its fifth game in its last six despite cutting a 16-point lead to 10 in the final four minutes. David McFarland slammed home two of his team-high 24 points and was fouled with 3:03 to go. His free throw cut SIU's lead to 10, but the Salukis responded with five straight to push the lead back out.
McGill hit a towering 3-pointer and Cook converted a driving layup for a 73-58 advantage at the 1:59 mark. McGill and Cook then combined for the first five-point possession this season for SIU. Right after Cook drilled a 3-pointer, SIUE's Tyrese Williford was called for pushing McGill out on the rebound. McGill converted both free throws for a 76-59 lead.
"The crowd didn't disappoint," said Fletcher, who played his final game in Edwardsville in front of an announced crowd of 3,360 fans. "We let the other team come back and get a little taste of coming back into the game, so we knew we had to cut that out and get stops down the stretch, and we ended up doing it. We continued to attack and we got to the free-throw line, got some easy buckets. That was the biggest part of it, keep attackin' and not lettin' up."
SIUE coach Jon Harris, also an Edwardsville native, was glad not to see SIU's preseason all-conference first team guard any more on his scheduled this season.
"That kid's a worker. I've known him since he was little. I know his family really well," Harris said. "Always good to see local kids have some success. Obviously, I hate it that some of his success came against us, but he worked for it. He's a gamer. Stepped up. He had a knee injury early, missed some games, but he obviously worked at it, and put himself to play well today."
SIU is back at home Wednesday night against Saint Louis. SIUE hosts Harris-Stowe next Saturday afternoon.
On Twitter: @THefferman