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Salukis handle adversity

The Baltimore Sun

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Adjusting on the fly yesterday because of injury and foul trouble, Southern Illinois found a way into the Sweet 16.

The No. 4-seeded Salukis earned their third trip into the final 16 of the NCAA tournament with a 63-48 victory over Virginia Tech in the second round of the West Regional at the Nationwide Center.

With starting forward Matt Shaw sidelined with an ankle sprain, three starters with three fouls and a fourth with four, Southern Illinois (29-6) still found a way to defeat the fifth-seeded Hokies (22-12).

"We had to make a lot of adjustments from the first time we played them," said Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery, whose team defeated Virginia Tech 69-65 in November. "They play eight players with interchangeable parts. They are very athletic, can really shoot and can run. My hat's off to my kids because we made adjustments in one night, and they executed to perfection."

With Shaw on the bench, sophomore Tony Boyle was called on to reprise his role of replacing Shaw as he did on Friday night in the Salukis' first-round victory over Holy Cross. Boyle, who led the Salukis in the first game with 14 points, was scoreless with just three rebounds and was hampered by four fouls. Teammate Randal Falker took up the slack with 10 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

Falker, who came into the tournament in a slump, had as many rebounds as the entire Virginia Tech starting front line combined. Hokies center Coleman Collins, who scored 13 points Friday in a comeback victory over Illinois, had just four while being guarded by Falker. Forward A.D. Vassallo had just two points.

"As far as Randal goes, when he's defending well, he's playing well," Lowery said. "That's what he got away from in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. That's why he's one of the best players in our league."

Lowery called on reserves Wesley Clemmons and Tyrone Green to fill out the lineup. Clemmons hit a big three early in the second half when Tech had drawn within 38-30. Green didn't score in his 24 minutes but grabbed four rebounds and played solid defense.

Salukis guard Jamaal Tatum led all scorers with 21 points, while Tony Young had 17 and Bryan Mullins had 11. Young and Mullins stepped up in Shaw's absence and hit big shots as Southern Illinois expanded its 28-20 halftime lead.

Virginia Tech, led by Jamon Gordon's 16 points, was down 48-34 with 7:50 left when Mullins hit the second of two free throws. The Hokies couldn't get any closer than 10 points.

Southern Illinois didn't help itself, making just 7 of 12 free throws in the final eight minutes. Southern Illinois did get key three-pointers from Young and Falker at the end of the shot clock to keep Virginia Tech from putting on a rally, as it did to beat Illinois, 54-52.

"They do a good job of contesting shots," Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell said. "I think every shot we took was a tough shot. That's what they take pride in doing, playing defense."

Reid Hanley writes for the Chicago Tribune.

VIRGINIA TECH-Washington 6-12 2-4 15, Vassallo 0-6 2-2 2, Collins 2-2 0-0 4, Dowdell 3-9 1-2 7, Gordon 7-9 1-5 16, Munson 1-4 1-1 3, Witcher 0-3 1-2 1, Travis 0-0 0-0 0, Sailes 0-0 0-0 0, Diakite 0-1 0-0 0, Tucker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-46 8-16 48. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS-Falker 4-9 2-4 10, Boyle 0-1 0-0 0, Tatum 7-15 1-3 21, Mullins 3-5 4-6 11, Young 4-11 5-6 17, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Bone 0-0 0-0 0, Armstrong 0-0 0-0 0, Acquah 0-0 0-0 0, Coopwood 0-1 0-0 0, Green 0-0 0-2 0, Clemmons 1-1 1-2 4. Totals 19-43 13-23 63. Halftime-Southern Illinois, 28-20. 3-point goals-Virginia Tech 2-13 (Gordon 1-2, Washington 1-3, Dowdell 0-1, Munson 0-1, Vassallo 0-6), S. Illinois 12-21 (Tatum 6-9, Young 4-8, Clemmons 1-1, Mullins 1-3). Fouled out-Collins. Rebounds-Virginia Tech 29 (Gordon 8), S. Illinois 30 (Falker 12). Assists-Virginia Tech 3 (Collins, Dowdell, Gordon 1), S. Illinois 11 (Falker, Mullins 3). Total fouls-Virginia Tech 21, S. Illinois 19. A-NA.

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