for this game

Tatum, Southern Illinois clip Butler in "mid-major" clash

Feb 18, 2007 - 3:28 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Jamaal Tatum and Southern Illinois showed they have the ability to bust a bracket or two by winning in a tough environment.

Tatum scored 20 points and Matt Shaw added 15 as the No. 15 Salukis overcame a handful of charges by 12th-ranked Butler to post a 68-64 victory in a tough non-conference battle.

A perennial participant in the NCAA Tournament since 2002, Southern Illinois (23-5) displayed that it will be a team to not take too lightly in the postseason after snapping Butler's 22-game home winning streak. It also claimed its ninth straight win.

"It was a great crowd," said Salukis senior guard Tony Young, who finished with 11 points. "You want to go into hostile environments with that kind of an atmosphere. It hypes you up."

"You saw two top-20 teams compete for 40 minutes," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. "You saw guys make plays that were terrific. I can't believe there was a harder fought, better game throughout the course of this season."

Randal Falker added five points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the Salukis, who posted their first road win against a ranked team since December 19, 1975, when they beat Michigan.

Shooting 43 percent (9-of-21) with five 3-pointers, Southern Illinois grabbed a 30-25 lead at the half. That advantage eventually ballooned to 45-35 when Falker split two free throws with 10:34 remaining to cap a 6-0 run.

"Shots were just going in tonight," Shaw said. "We do a great job as a team of finding each other when we get open and being unselfish and that's what we did tonight."

One of the most dangerous 3-point shooting teams in the nation, the Bulldogs (24-4) answered back with a 12-4 spurt, closing within 49-47 with 7:20 to play. Pete Campbell sank two 3-pointers and A.J. Graves added one during the burst.

Butler got within two points on two other occasions, but could not move closer against Southern Illinois, which made 20-of-29 free throws after intermission.

With the Salukis holding a 54-52 edge, Tatum converted two free throws and later hit a jumper to ignite an 8-2 run, making it 62-54 with 2:55 left.

The jumper proved to ba crucial shot, as the senior guard and team's leading scorer took his defender off the dribble and hit a 15-foot shot right before the shot clock expired.

"That's a pro shot," Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery said. "He just flinged it in.

"There's something about (Tatum) at the end of the shot clock. He's really taken advantage of and made unbelievable plays and shots that only special people can make."

Tatum finished 5-of-9 from the field and sank 8-of-11 free throws. He also handed out four assists for the Salukis, who were able to hold on despite finishing with just eight assists against 11 turnovers.

Mike Green scored 18 points and Campbell added 17 with five 3-pointers for the Bulldogs, who finished 9-of-23 (39 percent) from the arc in losing for just the second time in 12 games.

"They really defended and they were physical in the way they defended," Lickliter said. "You might say that might be the greatest pressure we've had all year and we had six turnovers."

Butler's leading scorer, Graves was limited to a season-low five points on 1-of-8 shooting, well below his 17.6 average.

Bothered by a stomach ailment, the junior guard missed his first six shots of the game before hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 45-38 with 9:54 remaining.

"We never zero in on one player, but every time somebody was guarding him, they took it as a personal challenge to not get scored on," said Young about how the Salukis handled Graves.

Brandon Crone added 13 points for the Bulldogs, who shot 41 percent (18-of-44) and lost the battle on the boards, 33-24.