Saint Mary's Falls To Southern Illinois, 65-56, In First Round Of NCAA Tournament
 
Daniel Kickert scores 16 points while Paul Marigney adds 12 points.
 
 
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St. Mary's Jonathan Sanders left, keeps the ball alive as Southern Illinois' Randal Falker reaches for it during their first-round NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
 
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March 18, 2005

Box Score | Video Highlight

By JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - After enduring consecutive heartbreaking losses in the first round of the NCAA tournament, seniors Stetson Hairston and Darren Brooks weren't going to let it happen again to Southern Illinois.

Hairston broke a late tie with three free throws, then followed with a 3-pointer and Brooks drove for the next two baskets, giving the Salukis the push they needed to get past Saint Mary's 65-56 Friday in the Chicago Regional.


 

 

Southern Illinois (27-7) advanced for the first time since 2002, when Hairston and Brooks were freshmen on a club that made the regional semifinals. The Salukis were knocked out by one point in the opening round the last two years, missing shots at the buzzer both times.

Next up for seventh-seeded SIU is second-seeded Oklahoma State (25-6), a 63-50 winner over Southeastern Louisiana earlier Friday. That matchup against a Big 12 heavyweight playing practically in its backyard gives the Salukis of the Missouri Valley Conference another chance to shed their label of being pretty good for a mid-major.

Southern Illinois can point to its top-tier seed as proof that some important folks think more highly of them. Wanting to prove they deserved it, the Salukis came out with an incredible show of energy and intensity: an early 14-0 run fueled by nine turnovers, including a run of eight straight trips downcourt for the 10th-seeded Gaels (25-9).

Yet Saint Mary's kept chipping away and got within 35-30 early in the second half. The Salukis seemed to have turned it back into a runaway when Brooks made a layup, Hairston followed with a 3-pointer and the lead went back up to 12.

The Gaels had one more run left, though, thanks to reserve Brett Collins. He scored 11 of his team's next 13 points, capped by a scooping layup that bounced around the rim and fell, tying the game at 47 with 6:32 left.

Hairston tried a 3-pointer from the right side on the next possession but was fouled. Hairston made all three free throws, then hit another 3 soon after. When Brooks made a running one-hander in the lane and followed with a layup from along the left baseline, the Salukis had enough of a cushion to finally end their first-round jinx.

Hairston led SIU with 13 points and Brooks, the MVC's top player and top defender each of the last two seasons, had 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Matt Shaw added 12 points and seven rebounds, and reserve Randal Falker was 4-for-4 for eight points.

Daniel Kickert led Saint Mary's with 16 points, but made only one field goal after sinking his first three shots. He also had five of the Gaels' 20 turnovers, as did Paul Marigney, who scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds. Collins scored 13.

Even in defeat, the Gaels head back to their California campus with a lot to be proud of, something Marigney knows best of all. A fifth-year senior, he's the only holdover from a squad that went 2-27 in 2001, with a season-ending 20-game losing streak.

Coach Randy Bennett took over the following season and the team's win total has gone up each year, from nine to 15 to 19 to 25 and the first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years.