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Saluki Men's Basketball shreds North Carolina A&T, 102-64.

Byline: TOM WEBER SIU SPORTS INFORMATION

CARBONDALE Southern Illinois rained down 14 shots from 3-point and scorched the nets to the tune of 61 percent from the field in a 102-64 shredding of North Carolina A&T on Tuesday night in the teams final non-conference home game. It was the most points scored by a Saluki team since Rich Herrins 1998 squad poured in 106 versus Missouri State.

Pretty much everything worked for the Salukis (7-4) in the first half. They scored 58 points, made 9-of-15 from long range, and had 17 assists compared to just two turnovers. It was the fifth-most points scored in a first half in school history.

"This is my 36th year to coach basketball thats the most unselfish basketball game Ive ever been a part of as a coach," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "Those numbers in the first half were phenomenal."

The Aggies (6-6) led only briefly, 9-8, before the offensive onslaught began. It started with back-to-back treys by Marcus Bartley. For a team that entered the game shooting just 33 percent from the perimeter, it felt like the parting of the Red Sea. The shooting was contagious six-different players ended up making two or more treys as Southern easily dissected A&Ts zone defense.

"Ive been telling you guys this I think we can shoot the basketball," Hinson reminded the media at his post-game presser. "Were not going to shoot that way every night, but take 5-or-6 misses off there and we still shoot 40 percent."

North Carolina A&T shot 57 percent from the field in the first half but still found itself on the short end of a 58-37 halftime deficit. Ten first-half turnovers led to 14 points for SIU. The Aggies simply had no answer for a Saluki offense that, once it started rolling, became unstoppable. The teams 24 assists were the most since SIU had 25 at SIUE in 2016.

"We have got a group of young men who can score the basketball and we when share it like that, we have a chance to be special," Hinson said.

Armon Fletcher led Southern with 20 points, but he was just one cog in a balanced Saluki attack that saw six players reach double figures and all 11 players score at least one bucket. The Salukis have won three-straight since switching to a four-guard starting lineup, and Hinson said roles are becoming more clearly defined. Fletcher and Sean Lloyd (16 points) are the main scoring weapons, Kavion Pippen (11 points) is the inside presence, Bartley (9 points, 5 assists) acts as the table setter, and Aaron Cook (10 points) brings a burst of speed.

"I was unaware of the impact of Marcus coming back would have on our team in rotations and would take us a little while to get through that," Hinson said. "Not only coaching and strategy-wise, but also ego-wise. Now, everybody has kind of accepted their role and accepted their rotation. I think were settling in to what we have."

The Salukis wore specially designed red, white and blue uniforms on what was Military Appreciation night, and Hinson said, "I can tell you right now, were wearing that uniform again."

The win was a complete team effort. Eight different players had multiple assists.

Southerns bench was also proficient, scoring a season-high 36 points, led by Jonathan Wileys 14 points. Senior guard Tyler Smithpeters came off the bench to record his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with five assists. Rudy Stradnieks had four points and three assists. Brendon Gooch made a rare appearance and buried a pair of treys. Austin Weiher scored his first bucket of the season.

"I called (Tyler) a rebounding fool," Hinson joked. "Ive never seen Tyler want to rebound the basketball more in my life."

Ten days ago, the Salukis fell at home to SEMO in one of the more disappointing losses of the Hinson era, which enters its sixth season. Hinson said he hopes fans will give this team a second look after tonights performance.

"I think our fans left here tonight and I hope they understand what Ive been saying all along," he said. "I know its one game, but this is the team I thought we could potentially have."
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U5NC
Date:Dec 22, 2017
Words:713
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