Friday , Mar , 02 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Salukis begin defense of MVC Tournament title

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – The top-seeded and 11th-ranked Southern
Illinois Salukis begin defense of their Missouri Valley Conference
Tournament title today, as they take on the ninth-seeded Drake Bulldogs in the
quarterfinals from the Scottrade Center.

The winner of this game will move on to face either Northern Iowa or Bradley
in the semifinal round on Saturday. The Salukis come into the
tournament with a full head of steam, as they won their last 11 games of the
regular season to capture the top seed in this event for the fifth time in the
last six years with a 15-3 league mark. The string of wins also pushed SIU to
an impressive 25-5 overall and in the process helped it climb to a school-
record No. 11 ranking. In terms of their history in this tournament, the
Salukis own a 29-22 all-time record, including five championships. Last year,
as a two seed, SIU defeated Bradley, 59-46, in the finals to capture their
first title since 1995.

As for Drake, it kicked off the 2007 MVC Tournament with a 101-96 overtime
thriller over eighth-seeded Evansville last night. The Bulldogs, who have
never won this event, improved to 11-28 all-time in the MVC Tournament with
the win.

As far as the all-time series goes, SIU owns a commanding 48-19
advantage over Drake, and it has won the last 16 meetings between the

The Bulldogs shot 50.0 percent from the field and set a MVC Tournament record
by making 15 three pointers, as they outlasted Evansville in overtime last
night. Drake converted 24-of-35 free-throw attempts and also won the battle on
the boards, 41-32. Josh Young, who averaged 10.3 ppg during the regular season,
exploded for 23 points on the strength of 5-of-9 shooting from long distance.
Klayton Korver added 18 points and eight boards for Drake, while Nick Grant
contributed 16 points and eight boards. Ajay Calvin even got into the mix, as
he turned in 14 points. On the season, Calvin leads the club in scoring (16.3
ppg) as well as rebounding (6.2 rpg). Grant puts forth 12.0 ppg and 4.4 rpg for
the Bulldogs, who are averaging 75.4 ppg on the season.

The Salukis have made their presence felt at the defensive end this season, as
they rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 56.2 ppg. At
the other end of the floor, SIU is turning in 63.3 ppg on the strength of 45.5
percent shooting from the field. Heading the charge for the Salukis is Jamaal
Tatum, who was recently voted the MVC Player of Year. Tatum heads SIU in
scoring with 14.5 ppg and he is knocking down 40.1 percent of his three-point
attempts. Randal Falker also took home a piece of hardware for the Salukis, as
he earned the MVC Defensive Player of the Year award after blocking a league-
high 64 shots during the regular season. Falker is the team’s top rebounder at
7.6 rpg and he is also turning in 13.1 ppg behind a scorching 61.1 percent
shooting from the floor. Matt Shaw is another player worth noting, as he puts
forth 11.2 ppg and 5.8 rpg.