Salukis hold off Ramblers to earn a date with Illinois State

Mike Rodriguez (1) led the Salukis with 16 points.
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ST. LOUIS — Mike Rodriguez scored 16 points, Sean Lloyd had 14 and fourth-seeded Southern Illinois held off fifth-seeded Loyola Chicago 55-50 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

A week after the Salukis (17-15) beat the Ramblers (18-14) 72-70 with a late 3-pointer to close the regular season, both teams struggled.

Southern Illinois, which faces top-seeded Illinois State in a semifinal Saturday, led 49-41 on a Rodriguez layup with 1:14 to play. But the Salukis missed 6 of 10 free throws in the last minute, including the front end of two 1-and-1s.

The Ramblers made four free throws to make it 50-45 before SIU’s Armon Fletcher got behind the press for a dunk. A 3-pointer by Milton Doyle with 13 seconds to go cut the deficit to 52-48 before Rodriguez made two free throws at 11.6 to seal it.

Both teams struggled in the first half — Loyola had 14 turnovers, SIU nine — with the Salukis leading 23-20.

The Ramblers shot 27 percent in both halves but had six 3s in the second. Ben Richardson knocked down his first five before missing his last six and scored 16 points.