By: Sammy Stava
The first two meetings between No. 2 seeded Southern Illinois and No. 7 seeded Missouri State were decided by a combined three points. The Salukis won them both, 79-77 on January 27th and 81-80 in overtime on February 14th , and they’ve also won seven consecutive games against the Bears.
Missouri State desperately wanted that streak to end. For that to happen, the Bears needed another strong game from Alize Johnson like Thursday night against Valparaiso. He did all he could, but it wouldn’t be enough to beat the Salukis.
Southern Illinois continues to have Missouri State’s number as the Salukis beat the Bears for the eighth consecutive time. This was another close one, a four-point victory as Southern Illinois prevailed 67-63.
The winner of the No. 8 / No. 9 game has never beaten a No. 1 seed and only once has the winner of the No. 7 / No. 10 game beaten a No. 2 seed. Northern Iowa and Missouri State came oh so close today, but Loyola and Southern Illinois showed why that’s so hard to do.
Just like Loyola and Bradley, Southern Illinois became the third team from Illinois to advance on Friday, which should make for a fun atmosphere at Scottrade Center for MVC Semifinal Saturday.
The Salukis are no strangers to Semifinal Saturday under head coach Barry Hinson, as they’ve reached this portion of the bracket for the second year in a row and the third time in five years.
“I mean, it feels really good. I mean, we can’t really celebrate too much because we’re already focusing on tomorrow’s game against Indiana State or Illinois State,” MVC sixth-man of the year Tyler Smithpeters said. That’s what’s next for Southern Illinois, who the Salukis are a combined 3-1 against those teams this season.
“Couldn’t be happier with what these young men not only did today, but what they’ve done all year long,” head coach Barry Hinson said.
For the first time since 2015-2016, the Salukis (20-12) have won 20 games in one season. That year ended in an MVC Quarterfinal loss to Northern Iowa. This year is different as their season continues tomorrow afternoon at 5:00.