DES MOINES — The chance to get another nationally-recognized road win turned into a very public disaster at the Knapp Center for SIU's men's basketball team Monday night.
The Salukis went down 41-21 at the half to undefeated Drake in a game that aired on CBS Sports Network after a season-worst offensive performance. SIU's 21 points were the fewest in the opening 20 minutes of a game this season, and things didn't get much better in the second half before the Bulldogs finished off an 86-55 victory. Drake led by 35 points with just over seven minutes to go, the biggest deficit the Salukis have had since former point guard Bryan Mullins took over as head coach last season, and won by 31.
The Bulldogs (13-0, 4-0 Missouri Valley Conference) scored 21 points off SIU's 14 turnovers and doubled up the Salukis in the paint, 44-22.
"We got a long way to go," Mullins said. "We got a young group, and, obviously, we want to be playing our best basketball towards the end of February. The only way you're going to do that is to continue to develop through practice, so, we gotta get more organized on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. That starts with me. I gotta do a better job of getting this team ready for the level that Valley teams play at."
Marcus Domask led SIU (7-3, 1-3) with 13 points. Ben Harvey and Lance Jones both added 10 for the Salukis, who dropped their third straight game after beating Evansville at home Dec. 27 to start the conference season.
Domask's bucket with 8:41 to go in the first half pulled SIU within 10, 23-13, but Drake quickly put the game away. Joseph Yesufu, a backup point guard who had 16 off the bench, answered with one of the Bulldogs' nine 3-pointers. Forward Shanquan Hemphill, the thorn in SIU's side in Sunday's win, pushed his team in front 15 with a transition bucket after Nate Ferguson blocked a shot at the other end. Drake sank 8 of 9 shots during a 19-4 run.
"Their defense pressured us a lot," Domask said. "At the end of the day, we just have to be strong with the ball. We were too casual, doing things we don't practice like putting the ball above our head, and we were just shooting ourselves in the foot."
Drake, which received votes in The Associated Press and coaches polls Monday, extended their best start in school history with the win. They next host Loyola (7-2, 2-0) Saturday and Sunday in Des Moines in a matchup of two teams tied for first place. Bradley and Valparaiso are yet to play a Valley game yet due to COVID-19 issues.
"We got a really veteran group. I think we got great leadership, and it's a really connected group," Drake coach Darian DeVries said. "You watch our guys on the floor, and the guys on the bench, they're all in it, pulling for each other. It makes it a lot of fun. In a year where we don't have a lot of fans, they're creating their own energy."
Domask led SIU with eight first-half points. No other Saluki had more than three, as SIU, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country entering the series, missed all 11 of its attempts from behind the arc. The Salukis finished the half 9 of 24 from the field (37.5%), while Drake took advantage of some transition opportunities and some second chances to connect on 16 of 33 from the field (48.5%).
The Bulldogs shot over 50% from the field in Sunday's 73-55 win at the Knapp Center, SIU's biggest loss of the season before Monday, and made 59.6% Monday.
SIU is back on the road this weekend at Indiana State (3-6, 0-4). Tipoff at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, is scheduled for noon Saturday and Sunday. The Sycamores got swept by Drake at home and lost two games at Missouri State by a combined 14 points.
Mullins believes if SIU can take care of the ball a bit better, after turning it over 26 times in two games in Iowa, it could help both sides.
"We had one turnover, I think we had one turnover today against their press, and I think it disrupts your rhythm," he said. "But I think, for us, we were able to get some decent shots, just, today, we had some careless turnovers again that helped them in the first half and went into the second half, as well."
On Twitter: @THefferman