Bradley Routs Southern Illinois 67-55
ST. LOUIS – Bradley was just too quick, too athletic and much more careful with the basketball than Southern Illinois in its dominating 67-55 win. The Braves got 30 points in the paint mostly off dribble penetration and received 22 points courtesy of turnovers by the Salukis’ ineffective offense.
“We needed to control the paint tonight,” Bradley head coach Jim Les said.
Braves sophomore Sam Maniscalco finished with a game-high 21 points; the Chicago native was a perfect 14-for-14 from the charity stripe.
“I was just trying to make a play and luckily the ball bounced my way,” Maniscalco said. “When we drive the ball it really opens up our opportunities down low.”
The victory marks the sixth for the Braves against the RPI Top 150 this season but Bradley will have to opportunity to defeat Northern Iowa for the first time in three tries when they match up Saturday afternoon in the semi-finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
“I don’t know if eager is the word I would use because we know how good they are but we’re excited for the opportunity,” Les said.
Les’ crew may have locked up another postseason invite, as they were the runner-up in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational Tournament last year.
Southern Illinois (13-18) got the large amount of Carbondale faithful in attendance at the Scottrade Center on its feet with an early 13-5 run throughout the first nine minutes of action that was capped by a Wesley Clemmons three-pointer.
However, the Salukis would only convert four more baskets throughout the rest of the half while surrendering a 24-12 Bradley run.
While SIU is known for its physical play and toughness, star player Bryan Mullins was not available for the game. Bradley (18-13) was able to win the battle on the boards and make the Salukis turn the ball over 16 times.
“Our turnovers led to runs for them,” SIU head coach Chris Lowery said. “We could win with Bryan having no points in 40 minutes but not with (freshman guard) Kevin Dillard doing that.”
Southern Illinois cut the lead to 54-46 with 3:46 left in the game but the Salukis’ shooting went cold again and never got closer.
Tony Boyle finished with a team-high 16 points in his last game with the Salukis.
The 2008-09 season will end as SIU’s first losing campaign in a decade.
“The one thing I’ll remember is Bryan and him wanting to play and me telling him no,” Lowery said. “It’s hard to win when you lose your best player and it’s hard to win with young guys.”