CARBONDALE, Illinois (Ticker) -- An amazing finish kept Southern Illinois' bid for perfection in the Missouri Valley Conference alive.
Sylvester Willis caught a full-court inbounds pass and converted a layup as time expired as the 17th-ranked Salukis escaped with a 72-71 victory over Bradley.
Southern Illinois (24-2, 17-0 MVC) moved within three wins of tying the school-record 19-game winning streak set in the 1966-67 season. The Salukis can complete the first unbeaten campaign in the MVC since Bradley's 1985-86 squad went 16-0 with a win at Northern Iowa on Monday.
The Salukis blew a 45-23 halftime lead and seemed headed for defeat when Bradley (14-15, 6-11) grabbed a 71-70 lead on Mike Suggs' 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.
After a timeout, Southern Illinois guard Darren Brooks inbounded from under his own basket and fired a pass upcourt to Willis, a senior playing his final home game. He cleanly caught the ball, turned around and banked it in as portions of the frenzied crowd emptied onto the floor.
The officials cleared the floor and put five-tenths of a second back on the clock. But Bradley's final inbounds pass was broken up, ending the Braves' four-game winning streak.
Stetson Hairston led Southern Illinois with 14 points and Brooks added 13. The Salukis shot 53 percent and harrassed the Braves into 32 percent shooting in building the 22-point halftime bulge. Lamar Owen banked in a 3-pointer from near halfcourt at the buzzer.
The second half was a different story as Bradley scored 19 of the first 25 points to quickly make a game of it. Marcellus Somerville's jumper with 2:34 to go forged a 63-63 tie.
Senior Brad Korn scored the next four points to put Southern Illinois back on top and it maintained the advantage as Hairston split a pair at the line for a 70-68 edge with 14 seconds remaining.
But Suggs nailed his only basket of the game to set up the dramatic finish.
Phillip Gilbert and James Gillingham each scored 17 points to lead Bradley, which concluded the regular season with a 2-10 road mark.