The job of the offense is to get good shots and take them. The Salukis need to make a few more than they did Wednesday night (they were 23 of 51 from the field, 45.1 percent) but made just enough plays to beat a good Saint Louis squad. Center Kavion Pippen missed one shot on six attempts, but appeared to get a bit sped up on a few possessions, resulting in two turnovers. Marcus Bartley was a bit more aggressive against his old team than he's been, driving the ball to the rim for a layup and six free-throw attempts. His nine points were his first points, period, in the last three games. Aaron Cook was 1 of 8 from the field, but he missed a dunk and took pretty good shots.
SIU nearly won the rebounding battle and more than matched Saint Louis at the defensive end, where the Billikens were the 20th-most efficient team in the country, according to KenPom.com entering the game. The Salukis played off their guards on the perimeter, allowing a lot of open 3s, but against a poor shooting team like Saint Louis, it worked out for them. The Billikens missed 20 of 26 from the 3-point line, and the Salukis only allowed 10 second-chance points. Saint Louis had 18 more shots than SIU but made only 23 field goals all night. Thik Bol's five blocks, all in the final six minutes of the game, were a game-changer.
In a low-scoring, physical matchup SIU had to have, the Salukis rose to the occasion in front of the biggest crowd of the season (5,021 fans). Sean Lloyd and Armon Fletcher led SIU with 13 points each, and the Salukis outscored the Billikens 13-9 off the bench and by seven at the free-throw line. SIU's defense, a bit undervalued compared to Saint Louis' entering the game, limited the dribble drive and made it tough on the Billikens' starting guards. Jordan Goodwin, Tramaine Isabell Jr. and Javon Bess were a combined 8 of 34 from the field. SIU missed five of its last six free-throw attempts, but made just enough plays to seal a big victory. The best part about Wednesday's game was the Salukis can play a lot better, and proved they can win a physical, mucked-up nail-biter when they have to.