SPRINGFIELD, Missouri (Ticker) -- Darren Brooks scored 19 points as 24th-ranked Southern Illinois ran its winning streak to 12 games with a 59-58 victory over Southwest Missouri State in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup.
In the midst of their longest winning streak since the 1966-67 squad won their final 19 games, the Salukis (20-2, 14-0 MVC) are having a monumental start in league play. Only Larry Bird's 1978-79 Indiana State team and Hersey Hawkins' 1985-86 Bradley squad had better starts in the conference, with each beginning 16-0.
Southern Illinois does not have that kind of standout NBA talent, but it has a bunch of decent players instead. Stetson Hairston added 15 points for the Salukis, who have four conference games remaining.
Nathan Bilyeu and Blake Ahearn each scored 12 points for Southwest Missouri (15-10, 7-7), which has lost consecutive games for the second time this season.
It was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than six points. The Bears held a 26-25 lead at the half behind eight points from Devin Mitchell.
The Salukis took their largest lead, 50-44, with 9:37 remaining on two free throws by Hairston. But the Bears fought back with an 8-0 run, capped by Merrill Andrews' jumper for a 52-50 lead with just under six minutes to play.
Hairston made back-to-back baskets to give the Salukis the lead, but Andrews made 1-of-2 free throws and Bilyeu a jumper, giving the Bears a 55-54 lead with 2:22 to go.
Brooks answered 18 seconds later with a 3-pointer and Hairston made two foul shots with 16 seconds left for a four-point advantage.
Hairston helped pick up the slack for second-leading scorer Brad Korn, who scored just four points on 1-of-10 shooting.