End of the road

ST. LOUIS SIUC's Saturday loss to Illinois State University at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament marks the end of two standout college careers and possibly that of head coach Rich Herrin.

Herrin's future is uncertain after he announced Saturday he will undergo surgery this week on his hip, which has bothered him throughout the season. Herrin said he will make the decision regarding his future in the next six weeks during his recovery.

Senior guard Shane Hawkins and senior forward Rashad Tucker closed out their Saluki careers in the 83-73 quarterfinal loss to ISU, which came after a 91-72 blow-out victory over Northern Iowa Friday in the tournament's opening round.

As good as the Salukis were Friday, Illinois State was even better Saturday.

The Redbirds ended any thoughts of an upset out of the gates by shooting 70 percent in the first half. Illinois State shot a tournament-record 66 percent for the game and put four players in double figures in their win at the Kiel Center.

I thought we battled very hard and stayed in the ballgame, Herrin said. We let them get a 10-point lead and could never cut that margin down. But I thought we showed a lot of courage coming back from just about 12 hours (of rest).

SIUC ended its season at 14-16 overall. Illinois State improved to 22-5 and advanced to face Wichita State University in the semifinals Sunday afternoon.

Hawkins and Rashad Tucker ended their careers on different notes, with Tucker capping off an impressive tournament with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Hawkins made just one of seven three-point attempts for five points while suffering with a wrist injury.

One of the keys to the game was the job [ISU senior guard Jamar] Smiley did on Hawkins, Redbird coach Kevin Stallings said. He did a terrific job limiting the number of good looks he had at the basket.

Illinois State took advantage of its size and went inside for points in the paint all afternoon. The Redbirds opened up a 19-12 lead, but SIUC rallied to within 30-24 before a freak injury gave Illinois State all the motivation it needed.

After a scramble for a rebound, ISU senior Skipp Schaefbauer hit the ground in obvious pain with 6:38 left. The shooting guard was wheeled from the floor in a stretcher with a broken right femur, and ISU took control of the half and the game after that.

Redbird junior Rico Hill scored 11 of his team-high 20 points in the first half as ISU took a 44-35 lead into halftime.

They were in command of the game, Herrin said. I don't think they ever thought at one time they weren't in command of the basketball game. We just tried to get a little roll and get things going, and we couldn't get it done.

In the second half, SIUC hung close but ISU had a response for every Saluki run. The Salukis drew within eight points three times in the second half only to have Hill and his teammates hit a big shot.

Saluki sophomore forward Chris Thunell said the Redbirds' poise made the biggest difference.

Their experience showed, Thunell said. We would make a run, and the next thing you know they got a bucket or two in a row.

The Salukis made it to Saturday's quarterfinal by dominating the ninth-seeded Panthers Friday. The Salukis set a tournament-record with 13 three-pointers, led by Hawkins' six, to roll to the 19-point win.

Tucker led four Salukis in double figures with 24 points. He added 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple-double in tournament history.

SIUC held UNI to 41 percent for the game, while the Salukis shot 54 percent. UNI also set a tournament-record with 34 three-point attempts.

We shot the basketball well, and we took care of the basketball, Herrin said. But we were very good defensively in the first half. That's where we got started. We played them much better this time than we did three weeks ago when the game was in the 90s.