CARBONDALE — MiKyle McIntosh stole the show in the first half. The Illinois State sophomore forward made five 3-pointers and scored 22 points, both career highs, in the first 20 minutes.
At the end, though, Leo Vincent made the shot everyone walked away from SIU Arena talking about.
Vincent’s long 3-pointer from the wing with 25 seconds left lifted Southern Illinois, which rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit, to an 81-78 victory over the Redbirds in a Missouri Valley Conference basketball game Tuesday night before an SIU Arena crowd of 4,441.
“It was very well-contested with one second on the shot clock,” said ISU coach Dan Muller. “They made two 3s from 25 feet against our zone late. You tip your hat when they make those.”
ISU lost a double-digit lead for the second straight game in falling to 9-9 overall and 3-2 in the Valley. McIntosh finished with 25 points. Tony Wills added 15 points, while DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Deontae Hawkins and Paris Lee scored 11 each for the Redbirds. Hawkins pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
“We just didn’t stick to our game plan and principles,” said Wills. “That really hurt us going down the stretch.”
After Vincent’s 3-pointer, the Redbirds had a chance to tie. Lee got free for an open 23-footer that rimmed out as the Salukis (15-3, 4-1) prevailed.
“It was the same thing as the last game (a 77-65 loss at Indiana State). We didn’t make smart decisions,” said McIntosh. “It came down to our decision-making. We weren’t making the right plays and our rebounding at the end really hurt us. It wasn’t just one thing, it was a collection of things.”
Vincent paced SIU with 24 points, while Sean O'Brien added 13 points and eight rebounds. Normal Community High School graduate Anthony Beane Jr. struggled most of the game, making 5 of 18 field goal attempts, before finishing with 12 points.
Beane had made only one of eight 3-pointers, but didn’t hesitate and knocked down a basket from outside the arc to draw SIU within 68-66 with 5:50 left.
The Salukis took a 75-72 lead on Mike Rodriguez’s long 3-pointer with 2:20 left. The Redbirds tied it at 78-all on Hawkins’ 3-pointer with 55 seconds left before Vincent made his sixth, and most important, 3-pointer of the game.
“I was just trying to shoot it with confidence,” said Vincent, who missed only one 3-point attempt. “They were playing some pretty good D.”
However, Muller didn’t feel it was the last shot that beat the Redbirds, who led 56-44 with 15 minutes left.
“We stopped playing the right way (down the stretch),” he said. “We passed the ball as well as we've passed it most of the game. Guys were trying to go through guys and guys were getting to the rim and trying to jump into guys when we’ve told them nonstop we’re not going to get those fouls.”
After being humbled by Wichita State, 83-58, three days ago, SIU coach Barry Hinson was proud how his team recovered in the second half.
“I challenged our guys, I told them the fans and our program are going to wonder how are we going to respond after an embarrassment like this,” said Hinson. “I don’t think I could have written a script any better than tonight.”
McIntosh made an early 3-pointer before going on a flurry. He hit four shots outside the arc to turn a 17-14 deficit into a 30-21 lead.
When SIU finally challenged McIntosh, O’Brien promptly fouled him. McIntosh proceeded to make three free throws for a 33-23 lead with 6:19 left.
“My teammates were finding me in the right spots. I felt confident shooting it,” said McIntosh, who was feeling ill and didn’t practice much the last two days. “I kept letting them fly and kept hitting and my teammates said keep shooting.”
SIU got within 38-36 on Tyler Smithpeters’ 3-pointer. Akoon-Purcell split a pair of free throws with 39 seconds left, then got a steal after SIU called a timeout to set up a late shot.
ISU worked the clock perfectly as Lee drove inside and kicked out to Wills for an open 3-pointer with three seconds left for a 42-36 haltime lead. That was a season-high point total for the Redbirds in the first half, surpassing the 35 against Tennessee State on Dec. 22.
The Redbirds return home to face Evansville at 8 p.m. Friday.