Southern Illinois was hungry for its first Missouri Valley Conference win of the season Sunday. It appeared the Salukis would have to wait a few more days to erase their goose egg when they trailed the Loyola Ramblers 39-33 entering the final eight minutes.
Then junior guard and leading scorer Anthony Beane returned the floor, and he caught fire to lead Southern Illinois (8-11, 1-5 MVC) to its first victory in more than a month.
“It became a point in time where we just decided we’re going to have to put him on the floor, because we weren’t scoring,” coach Barry Hinson said.
Beane finished with 20 points, including 15 in the final 6:47. The star guard received help from junior Jalen Pendleton, who posted 11 points off the bench.
Pendleton also made a huge impact defensively with four steals.
“Jalen Pendleton changed the whole atmosphere, the whole landscape of the game,” Hinson said. “There’s no way he should have had those steals — he had them because he hustled his tail off.”
Beane carried Southern Illinois late last season as the team got hot and nearly reached the MVC Tournament championship game. He started the 2014-15 season on another streak but cooled off in December and January.
Even when the Ramblers contested Beane’s shots Sunday, he drained them.
“Everyone in the league is holding their breath waiting for him to do that and it happened on us,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “He was very hard to stop in a couple of those jump shots. … We had all different guys on him. He just elevated, jumped up and knocked down shots.”
Moser, who coached at Illinois State before leading Loyola into the MVC, is now 0-11 all-time against the Salukis.
Loyola (13-5, 3-3), which was picked to finish last in the MVC preseason poll, had a strong non-conference performance and sat above .500 in league play with its toughest stretch already played.
Sunday’s loss was a disappointing one for the Ramblers, but the Ramblers were not at 100%. Star guard Milton Doyle, a sophomore who won MVC Freshman and Newcomer of the Year last season, is still struggling with an ankle injury from December.
“Milton can’t push off on his ankle,” Moser said. “He hurt it, then he re-hurt it. He doesn’t want to sit out, but I’m getting to the point where I’m going to have to. He doesn’t have his explosion, as you saw tonight. He’s a terrific passer and he made plays for others, but he doesn’t have that extra burst.”
Loyola returns home Wednesday for its second meeting with Evansville. The Ramblers defeated the Aces on the road Jan. 7 at the buzzer.