SIU Tops UMASS in Quality Early Season Battle

November 12th, 2008

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Despite opening up a 15-point first half lead, the UMass men's basketball team couldn't hold off a charging Southern Illinois Salukis squad, which used a late 12-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 10-point advantage on its way to an 80-73 win on Wednesday night. With the loss, the Minutemen have been eliminated from the 2K Sports Classic, falling one win shy of a return trip to Madison Square Garden where last season's memorable NIT run culminated. Junior Ricky Harris was the offensive star for the Minutemen while senior Tony Gaffney shined on the defensive end with a career-high seven blocks.

The Salukis used a hot second half to reach 48% shooting for the game (30-for-64), 41% from long distance (9-for-22). The Minutemen won the battle of the boards, 38-26, including 12 on the offensive end.

Harris impressed with a 7-for-14 shooting night, including 4-of-9 from behind the arc and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Sophomore Anthony Gurley chipped in with 15 points (5-for-10), 10 of which came in the first half.

Gaffney finished with six points and nine rebounds to go along with the seven blocks. He continued his high-energy pace from the get-go with a blocked shot less than five minutes into the game, springing freshman David Gibbs for a layup and the 14-4 lead. Gaffney later cleaned up freshman Tyrell Lynch's miss and scored on the put back to make it 30-20 in favor of the Minutemen.

Trailing by as many as 15, the Salukis used an 11-0 run spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second to pull right back within four at 39-35 with 18:26 still remaining. The Minutemen responded with two Lowe free throws and a Harris three pointer to reopen a nine-point advantage, 44-35.

Southern Illinois' hot streak continued, culminated by its first lead since it was 2-0, as Kevin Dillard's fourth three-point field goal of the second half made it 53-51 in favor of the Salukis with 11:55 remaining in the contest.

The back-and-forth half continued as the Minutemen responded with a 7-0 run to retake a five-point advantage at 58-53. The Salukis then used a run of their own (7-1) to retake a one-point lead at 60-59 with 6:42 remaining in the game.

The score was later tied at 60, 63, 65, and 67 before the Salukis took over with three minutes remaining to open up a 10-point lead at 77-67 after two Dillard free throws.

After Southern Illinois' Bryan Mullins scored the game's first points, UMass responded to close out the first half with a bang. The Minutemen went on to score seven-consecutive to make it 7-2 capped off with one of Harris' four threes. UMass opened up a double-figure lead, with its biggest advantage being 15 after a Lowe three-pointer at the 3:08 mark which made it 39-24

Ricky Harris led UMass in scoring for the second game in a row with 24 points. It is his second straight 20 point game this year and his 20th-career 20-point game.

Chris Lowe netted 17 for his second game in double figures in as many games this season. Overall, he now has 32 career games with 10 or more points.

Southern Illinois was 9-of-14 in the second half from 3-point range after being 0-of-8 in the first half.

- From UMASS Media Relations