CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP)—Jamaal Tatum wasn’t about to let a tender leg keep him out against Southern Illinois’ biggest rival.
Matt Shaw scored 25 points, Tatum added 18 and the 21st-ranked Salukis held off Creighton 72-68 on Saturday to take over sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Three days after a deep thigh bruise limited him to six minutes and three points in a home victory over Bradley, Tatum shot 7-of-11 from the field. The senior guard also was lauded by his coach for huddling his teammates with 8:16 left and keeping them focused despite a 56-52 deficit.
“I don’t care if I had to come up with some home remedy and tie a shoelace around it,” Tatum said. “I definitely felt I would let my teammates down if I didn’t play.”
Southern Illinois pushed its winning streak to seven while extending Creighton’s road woes against ranked teams. The Salukis (21-5, 12-3) shot a school-record 86 percent from the field in the second half, making 12 of 14 shots. The previous mark was 78 percent against Valparaiso on Dec. 3, 1979.
“That was crazy,” Shaw said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Like many of the matchups between the schools—one of them has been the league’s regular-season champion five of the past six seasons—every point counted. And when it mattered most, Southern Illinois couldn’t miss.
Still, Creighton (17-8, 11-4), which didn’t lead until early in the second half, never went away.
The Bluejays, who trailed by as many as eight points in the first half before rallying to 37-35 at the break, tied the score on an inside basket by Anthony Tolliver on the first possession of the second half.
Three minutes later, Creighton took its first lead, 43-41, after Isacc Miles stole Tatum’s pass and was fouled hard on a would-be dunk. Miles made two free throws with 16:51 left.
The Bluejays ran the margin to as many as six, but Southern held tight.
Creighton tied the score at 67 on two free throws by Nick Porter with 1:13 left but lost the lead for good when Tony Young hit a 12-footer with 49.8 seconds remaining to put the Salukis up 69-67.
Shaw’s two free throws sealed it.
Nate Funk and Dane Watts had 17 points apiece for the Bluejays, who lost a share of the league lead while dropping to 2-60 on the road against ranked teams — including 22 straight losses since defeating then-No. 13 Indiana State on Jan. 28, 1978.
Southern Illinois has won the last seven meetings since losing 80-56 to the Bluejays in the 2003 conference tournament final.
After this one, Creighton coach Dana Altman could only shrug.
“That was a good college basketball game,” he said. “We had our chance.”
Tatum put concerns about his aching thigh to rest early, draining a 16-foot jumper just seconds after Young put the Salukis ahead with a 3-pointer on the game’s first shot. Tatum’s baseline jumper—two more of his 11 first-half points—off a fast break bumped the margin to 7-0.
Creighton trimmed the lead to 18-17 on a free throw by Miles with 9:21 left in the first half. But Southern Illinois ran off seven unanswered points— including 3-pointers by Bryan Mullins and Shaw—to stretch the margin to 25-17, its biggest lead of the half, with a little more than seven minutes left.