Salukis unable to overcome first half deficit against Murray State Racers, five game streak broken

Southern Illinois (7-4) fell 80-52 to the Murray State Racers (6-1) during tonight’s military appreciation game, ending the five game winning streak by the Salukis.

“I take full responsibility for the preparation of our guys tonight,” head coach Barry Hinson said. “I made a big mistake tonight, our guys played scared tonight.”

Going into the game SIU had held six of their last ten opponents to their lowest or second-lowest point totals of the year.

Senior forward Thik Bol had 94 career blocks entering the game, with six more blocks he will become the sixth player in school history for 100.

With the win the series is now tied at 18-18, the Racers have won two out of the last three games including the win tonight.

Senior forward Armon Fletcher was out for the second game in a row, as he is currently serving an indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules.

Murray State opened the game out to an early lead with three straight three-pointers led by sophomore guard Ja Morant to make it 9-5. Morant finished with 13 assists and 23 points for the double-double for Murray State.

“He’s most definitely a good player,” junior guard Eric McGill said. “I feel like we could have done a better job containing him.”

Senior guard Sean Lloyd Jr. made a layup and got fouled, but he missed the free throw as Southern trailed the Racers 15-9 with 12:28 left in the half.

A dunk and a tip-in by Murray State stretched their lead out to ten at 19-9 with 10:15 left in the first half. Junior guard Aaron Cook drew the foul on Morant and made one of his two free throws to make it 23-12.

Cook finished with 14 points for the Salukis. A three-pointer by the Racers opened up their lead in the first half to 30-12 with 6:20 left in the half.

Lloyd turned the ball over to Murray on a overthrown pass to senior guard Marcus Bartley and the Racers were able to make a three-pointer off the turnover to extend their lead to 35-12.

A made free throw by Morant and two three-pointers by the Racers had given them a 30 point lead at 46-16 with less than a minute left in the half.

The 31 point deficit marked the largest halftime deficit at SIU Arena in history beating out the previous 26-point deficit record against the University of Northern Iowa  back in January 2013

Lloyd made both of his free throws but Murray State made a buzzer beater three heading into halftime as they were up 49-18 at halftime.

“It was the most complete first half, I’ve ever been a part of,” Matt McMahon, Murray State head coach said. “In any form of my time in basketball.”

Lloyd finished 11 points and three rebounds. Cook made both of his free throws for the first points for the Dawgs in the second half as they still trailed 51-20.

McGill made a pull-up jumper and Cook made one of his two free throws to make it 59-27 five minutes into the second half.

Bol made the floater from the free-throw line as the Salukis trailed 61-31 with 13:48 remaining in the game.

Southern began to claw away at the Racer lead as McGill made both of his free throws and senior center Kavion Pippen made a layup to make it 63-27 with 9:59 left in the game.

SIU began to chip away as two turnovers by Murray led to two layups by McGill as the Salukis still trailed 66-43 with 7:51 left in the game.

McGill finished with the team high with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double for the Dawgs.

Murray State answered the rally by the Dawgs as they went on a 9-2 run with one three-pointer a layup and a jumper to make it 75-45.

Cook went to the line with eight seconds left and made two of his three free throws as the Racers end the SIU winning streak as Murray won 80-52.

“They baited us to play like we don’t usually play,” McGill said. “We only had six assists, that’s not us, we just didn’t play like SIU today.”

Southern will be back in action as they face number 14 Buffalo in a rematch at Buffalo with tip off set for 1pm.

“We go into every game expecting to win,” Cook said. “It’s the same thing when we play Buffalo – [you] come ready to play with a different mindset.”

Sports reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at awarfel@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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