Southern Illinois 63, Virginia Tech 48

Sunday, March 18th 2007, 4:25 pm
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The team that no one wants to play is still playing -- thanks to its suffocating defense.

Southern Illinois got three big 3-pointers from Jamaal Tatum and pulled away from Virginia Tech 63-48 Sunday in a West Regional second-round game.

Tatum, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, scored 21 points. The Salukis have won 15 of 16, and set a school record for victories in a season.

They advance to meet the Kansas-Kentucky winner in a regional semifinal on Thursday night in San Jose, Calif. Rest assured that neither team wants to face a team so dedicated to floor burns and gritty defense.

Tony Young added 17, Bryan Mullins 11 and Randall Falker 10 for Southern Illinois (29-6), which surpassed its victory total from the 2000-01 team that also made it to the round of 16.

Jamon Gordon had 16 points and Deron Washington added 15 for fifth-seeded Virginia Tech (22-12), which hadn't been held to fewer than 54 points all year. Zabian Dowdell, a first-team All-ACC choice who came in averaging 18 a game, had just seven.

Tatum had hit the decisive 3 to break a late tie when the teams met back in November at a tournament in Florida, a game the Salukis won 69-64. Virginia Tech piled up a season-high 19 turnovers in that game.

They did better holding onto the ball this time around, but never were able to solve the Salukis' pressure defense.