EVANSVILLE, Indiana (Ticker) -- Southern Illinois set up an exciting homestand with a lackluster win.
Stetson Hairston scored a career-high 23 points to lead the 21st-ranked Salukis over Evansville, 84-69 in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup.
Southern Illinois (21-2 overall, 15-0 MVC) is 11-1 on the road and hasn't lost to a conference foe since falling to Creighton in the Missouri Valley tournament championship on March 10, 2003. The Salukis have won 34 out of 36 conference games and clinched their third straight regular-season MVC title.
"It's unbelievable what these guys have done so far this season," Southern Illinois coach Matt Painter said. "This is great, you want to celebrate, you want to have a good time, but there's a lot of basketball for us to play. We have to keep our focus."
The Salukis have won 20 straight regular-season conference games and 13 straight overall. Southern Illinois has a key "Bracket Buster" game with Hawaii on Saturday at home before hosting Creighton.
Evansville (5-18, 4-11) looked as if it might give Southern Illinois some trouble early. The Purple Aces trailed by only six at halftime, but were overwhelmed by a 15-2 run to start the second half, falling behind by 18 with ten minutes to play.
Darren Brooks, the MVC's leading scorer, added 17 points despite being in foul trouble most of the first half for Southern Illinois.
Hairston came into the contest averaging just nine points per game. The junior guard made 4-of-5 3-pointers.
"Stetson was great, especially when Darren was out in the first half," Painter said. "If the opportunity pops up, he's going to take his shots."
"Regardless of what my (stats) are, I'm happy," Hairston said. "What if I was in a different circumstance and I was scoring a lot of points, would we be 21-2? I just want to give myself to the team."
Clint Cuffle led Evansville with 20 points, including 4-of-6 3-pointers. The Purple Aces, who have lost eight of 11 games, stayed in the game by going 8-of-16 from the arc.