Southern Illinois is starting to be the last team that anyone wants to see on the schedule.
The Salukis have been battling the rest of the Missouri Valley hard lately, and had quite the week at hand. First it was the upset of Wichita State, which no one expected.
Then Southern held as much as a 12-point lead against Indiana State, and was up with less than a minute remaining in the game. But Indiana State still has Jake Odum. And Odum has a nose for the basket. And that basket loves him back.
The junior guard laid it in with 19 seconds remaining to complete the Indiana State comeback, and those were the points that stood for a 66-65 win by the Sycamores.
The rim, it did like like Jalen Pendleton. Well, let's be more clear here. Pendleton and the rim had a love affair going until the final seconds of the game. The freshman guard came off the bench to lead the Salukis in scoring with 17 points.
But the quest for 19, a little floater at the buzzer, wouldn't go in. Indiana State survived.
That Southern Illinois was even able to make this a game is amazing. Consider that Friday, the school announced that Josh Swan, who was averaging almost 10 points per game, was out for the season with a knee injury. You don't expect to lose that kind of production and then find a way to make it up on the road in the first game out.
That is just what Southern Illinois did though. Give Barry Hinson's team a lot of credit.
And then give Indiana State a little more. Odum finished with 13 points, five assists, four steals and two blocks (part of seven swats by State). In other words, he did it all for the Syacmore. RJ Mahurin added 16 points and Khristian Smith had 12 off the bench.
The win keeps the Indiana State dream of making the NCAA Tournament alive. It was these same Salukis who handed Indiana State its worst loss statistically this season. A second loss to a 200-plus ranked team? That would be hard to overcome in the minds of the committee.
Erase that problem off the list. The Sycamores now just need to continue to keep pace in the Missouri Valley to the finish.