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SIU Basketball

Salukis beat Colorado, advance to Paradise Jam semifinals 67-63

SIU men's basketball coach Bryan Mullins recaps his team's 67-63 win over Colorado at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The Salukis advanced to the tournament semifinals on Sunday.

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands — SIU's men's basketball team never blinked when it drew Colorado, the one Power Five team out of the eight in the Paradise Jam, in its opening game a few months ago.

The Salukis wrote on a poster that their last win over a Power Five team was over Oklahoma State in the 2008 NIT, then tore it down after handing the Buffaloes their first loss of the season. SIU (2-1) hit a season-high 12 3-pointers, four each from Lance Jones and Steven Verplancken Jr., and handled the foul trouble at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center better than Colorado (3-1) to advance to Sunday's tournament semifinals.

"We're tough. We got some tough dudes, and we got a chip on our shoulder," said Verplancken, who delivered a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. "That's what we live by every day, that chip on our shoulder, and we fight every day."

SIU forward Marcus Domask talks about toughing out the 67-63 victory against previously-unbeaten Colorado Friday night at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

Jones scored 14 and Marcus Domask had 17 to lead the Salukis to their 10th win in their last 11 non-conference games. SIU will play Northeastern (2-2) Sunday at 7 p.m. (Central) for the right to play either Colorado State (4-0) or Creighton (4-0) in Monday's final. Before the Salukis knocked off the Buffaloes, the Huskies beat Duquesne 71-55 to become the first road team to win a tournament game this year.

Colorado trailed by eight to start the second half, but pulled within four after baskets from Elijah Parquet and Jabari Walker, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound sophomore that is up for the Julius Erving Award as one of the top small forwards in the country. Verplancken answered with a 3-pointer from the right corner off a Domask pass. Seven straight points from Evan Battey got the Buffaloes within four again with 11:53 left, but Domask got by his man when he jumped out to try to deny a 3-point attempt and took it all the way to the rack.

Battey made 5 of 6 from the field and scored 12 points, but had to sit midway through the second half because of foul trouble. Walker, like Battey, also finished the game with four fouls and added 16 points, four rebounds and seven drawn fouls.

SIU lost J.D. Muila, who had four points and three rebounds off the bench, and guard Ben Coupet Jr. (six points, four boards) after they fouled out.

The Salukis' lead shrunk to two after Tristan da Silva was fouled, but da Silva missed the first attempt. Colorado never got any closer.

"We could not get over the hump with a stop and a score. I really believed if we could have taken the lead things might have been different, and they finished," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "They made free throws down the stretch. We didn't. That's a big part of that game."

SIU guard Steven Verplancken Jr. recaps his team's 67-63 win over Colorado Friday night at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. Verplancken scored a game-high 18 points for the Salukis.

SIU, like Northeastern, Creighton and Colorado State, now gets Saturday off. Then it's back to chasing an important title the team wasn't able to pursue last winter because of COVID-19.

"To be able to compete for a championship early in the season, that's how we framed it to 'em," SIU coach Bryan Mullins said. "You play a BCS team on a neutral floor. These are the games that we want to play in. These are games our program expects to win, and just for us, now we gotta regroup and refocus. We got another huge opportunity on Sunday."


On Twitter: @THefferman


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