HATTIESBURG, Miss. — The leader of SIU's best bench performance of the season Wednesday night stands 6-foot-2, doesn't turn the ball over and finally found the offense to go with his defense.
Trent Brown, one of five players on the current Saluki roster that has won at least one state championship (Brown's Pinnacle High School in Arizona won back-to-back titles his final two seasons), took one of SIU's four defensive charges in Wednesday's 76-59 win over Norfolk State. He started one fast break without using his hands in the second half, and scored a season-high 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting at the Banterra Center. SIU's bench matched the Spartans' 26 points from their reserves.
"I thought there was great energy and the bench came in and made a difference (Wednesday night)," SIU coach Bryan Mullins said. "I thought Trent played really well on the defensive side of the ball. He got some big stops, he was physical guarding the ball, and I think that gave us a great lift."
Brown had four of the team's eight steals against Norfolk State (3-7), which turned it over 14 times and had two players in double figures. The Spartans rebounded from a first half that saw them shoot 38.7% from the field by making 52.2% in the second half to finish 24 of 54 from the field (44.4%).
SIU (4-5) hasn't allowed an opponent this season to shoot over 50% from the field even with three true freshmen in its top eight.
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"Sometimes the ball just bounces your way," Brown said. "When your teammate gets a deflection, you actually end up getting the steal. You just have to keep playing good defense every single possession."
Brown played in one of the best backcourts in the West last season at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, teamming with two-time Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year Nico Mannion. Mannion, who signed with Arizona, averaged over 30 points a game last season. Brown averaged 19.4 points, five rebounds and three assists per game for a 27-3 squad.
A savvy player with four turnovers in over 183 minutes of action this season, Brown had as many steals (six) as baskets for the Salukis entering Wednesday. Three for his last 11 from the 3-point line over the previous four games, he canned 3 of 5 behind the arc against Norfolk State and both of his free-throw attempts. His 11 points matched Harwin Francois' 11 points off the bench.
"There's no better feeling," Brown said, after seeing a few go through the net at the Banterra Center. "When you play basketball as much as people around here do, when you go through a shooting slump, and you work so hard at it and you put so many extra hours in the gym... just like (teammate Marcus Domask) said, everyone coming in all the time. You know there's going to be a game where everything starts coming, and you just wait for it."
The Salukis hope Brown's scoring is a sign of things to come when they head to Southern Mississippi to take on the Golden Eagles (2-7) at Reed Green Coliseum today. USM has dropped four straight, but its losses were against eighth-ranked Gonzaga, 13th-ranked Seton Hall and Alabama in The Bahamas and a 7-1 Tulane squad Wednesday night.
"I was 3 for 5. Obviously, I'd like to be 5 for 5, but, you just have to string 'em together," Brown said. "Team-wise, we got one win and we need one more this week."
On Twitter: @THefferman