CARBONDALE — SIU's men's basketball team got a big contribution from an unlikely forward Tuesday night at Drake.
Rudy Stradnieks, a 6-foot-9, 229-pound junior that hadn't scored in three of his four previous games, scored eight points in eight minutes to help the Salukis to a 78-67 win. Stradnieks made all four of his field goal attempts at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, and played four minutes in the second half as starting center Kavion Pippen put up 10 of his 14 points.
"We win by 11 (Tuesday night)," SIU coach Barry Hinson said. "He has eight points in the first half, and we had to have it. Numbers seven and eight had to come in and play, and he gave us 14 minutes, and I said if he could just give us 10-15 minutes, it's gonna help us a ton. We played a lot of guys heavy minutes (Tuesday night), but we had to because Marcus (Bartley) got in foul trouble."
Bartley drew his fourth foul 45 seconds into the second half. He scored eight points with four assists and no turnovers in 21 minutes. Guards Sean Lloyd, Armon Fletcher and Tyler Smithpeters all played 30 or more minutes.
Stradnieks finished the non-conference schedule well in late December, scoring a season-high 11 points in a loss to Nevada and eight in a victory over Duquesne in Las Vegas. He missed all three of his field goal attempts in the road win at Northern Iowa to open conference play, playing seven minutes, and missed SIU's home loss to Drake with flu-like symptoms.
He didn't score in eight minutes against Missouri State on Saturday, but grabbed two rebounds. With an eight-man rotation - redshirt freshman guard Brendon Gooch played three minutes at Drake - every minute counted against the Bulldogs (12-12, 6-5 Missouri Valley Conference).
Bartley's layup with 10:19 to go in the first half gave SIU (15-9, 7-4) the first double-digit lead of the game at 22-12. Drake, which lost for only the second time this season at home, closed the gap to seven off Reed Timmer's free throw at the 8:50 mark. Stradnieks' layup pushed the Salukis' lead to nine, and he scored again after Bartley blocked Ore Arogundade's layup attempt for an 11-point edge.
SIU won its fourth straight game to move into sole possession of second place in the Valley and rose 12 spots in the RPI to No. 90. Bradley hosted MVC leader Loyola Wednesday night for a chance to tie the Salukis for second place.
Pippen made 6 of 8 from the field in 27 minutes. The 6-10 junior center grabbed five rebounds and had one of SIU's five blocks.
SIU returns home to face Valparaiso Saturday at 7 p.m. The Crusaders played Indiana State Wednesday night.