CARBONDALE – Armon Fletcher’s last ditch 3-point attempt summed up SIU’s 70-67 loss to Drake Sunday.
After trailing by double digits most of the second half, the Salukis pulled to within 69-67 with just 44 seconds remaining on an Aaron Cook 3-pointer. Graham Woodward got one point back for Drake with a free throw, but that left SIU an opportunity to tie.
The Salukis got the ball to point guard Marcus Bartley who pushed the ball into the front court. Bartley pushed the issue momentarily near the top of the key, then deferred to Fletcher.
The junior for Edwardsville had a good look at the basket, and the flight of the ball looked true as it left his hand. However, as so many shots had done earlier in the day, the ball circled the rim and shot out, sending the Salukis down to defeat.
“It was a great play, me and Marcus ran a brush screen,” Fletcher said. “Marcus had enough confidence in me to shoot that shot at the end of the game. I thought it was good, but it just didn’t go down.”
The Salukis shot just 39.4 percent from the game, but it wasn’t like the team was taking bad shots. They simply weren’t finishing. Time and again SIU misfired on layups and failed to dump the ball in the hole on offensive rebounds.
In the end, that did them in.
Meanwhile on the other end, a kind roll with just seven seconds remaining gave Drake something of a cushion.
After Cook’s 3-pointer put SIU within striking range, Cook fouled Woodward, who went to the line shooting a one-and-one. Both free throws would have put the game on ice, a miss on the first shot would have opened the door for an unlikely SIU win.
Woodward’s first shot was clearly offline, but the ball hugged the rim, rolled to the front of the iron, sat there tantalizingly for an instant then fell it.
Those two plays pretty much summed up the day for SIU.
“I don’t think we got hesitant about shooting, when you miss so many shots that are so close to going in the basket, it kind of kills your confidence a little bit, but I think everybody did a good job of keeping shooting,” Fletcher said. “We have a team of all shooters. We can all shoot the ball. Some nights are just like that. It’s basketball.”
Several times in the second half the Salukis were able to slice the lead under 10 points, but invariably SIU would see a shot rim out. SIU coach Barry Hinson said missing shots, like hitting shots, is contagious.
“I think what’s more contagious is when you don’t have any energy,” he said. “We just couldn’t get them going.
“How many baskets did we miss just flat around the basket. Then, one of our best shooters and a senior, goes 0-for-8. I just think when you look at the stats you ask, ‘What happened?’’
The lack of energy Hinson alluded to was as the result of telling the team prior to the game that preseason All-MVC forward Thik Bol would miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
SIU is back in action Wednesday night, facing Evansville at home.