Trent Brown made his first shot of the night from the top of the key just 19 seconds into Monday’s game. A jam-packed Dawg Pound launched confetti to celebrate the score, which gave the Salukis a lead they would never relinquish, as they demolished the visiting Little Rock Trojans 94-63 on opening night for college basketball.
“We were excited to open up in front of the Dawg Pound, and the rest of the fans,” senior guard Lance Jones said. “It was just an amazing atmosphere.”
In front of a packed Banterra Center, Southern Illinois showed off its depth in a big way. Dalton Banks tied for the team lead in points, contributing 14 of SIU’s 51 bench points.
“All the guys came to play tonight,” Banks said. “And we’re gonna need that especially when we get to Valley play, and we play those tough teams like Drake and Missouri State.”
Jones joined Banks with 14 points of his own, most of which coming in the first 12 minutes of the game. Marcus Domask and Jawaun Newton also had double-digit performances with 11 and 10 points respectively.
“This is a team effort,” Jones said. “It’s not a one-person thing or a two-person thing. Everybody contributes in the right way.”
The Salukis making their debuts combined for 43 points, led by Newton. Clarence Rupert and Scottie Ebube each scored nine in significant minutes. The transfers all seemed to mesh well despite this being their first official game in maroon and white.
“Just in terms of our depth, those guys have worked extremely hard,” head coach Bryan Mullins said. “They can all help us in different ways. They’re all different types of players, so it gives us a lot of versatility.”
Mullins also credited the crowd of 5,109 fans for helping the Dawgs jump out of the gate.
“An electric atmosphere. Our guys fed off that energy,” he said. “Our guys never let up. The student section’s awesome.”
Southern’s lead quickly ballooned after an 11-point run was capped off by Ebube making back-to-back baskets through contact. The lead was extended to 20 points when Jones nailed three consecutive three-pointers, virtually putting the game out of reach even before halftime.
It wasn’t quite a perfect game from the Salukis, however. They, as well as the Trojans, experienced a few dry spells, and Little Rock kept pace with SIU after halftime.
“Second half, they got into the paint too much,” Mullins said. “They had too many easy baskets in the second half.”
With the win, the Salukis move to 4-0 in home openers under Mullins. Monday was the first season opener for SIU which did not go to overtime since 2019. Pulling away early and maintaining the lead throughout the game gives Southern a lot to be proud of as it enters a tough task later this week.
The Salukis will travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to face Oklahoma State of the Big 12 conference on Thursday night. After wrapping up a brief road trip on Saturday against Southern Indiana, they will return to Carbondale on Nov. 17.
Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrandynWilcoxen. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.