Salukis take out Bulldogs behind Falker's strong second half

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Once Randal Falker got loose, it was pretty much over for Mississippi State.

Falker scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and Southern Illinois (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) won 63-49 in the Anaheim Classic on Friday.

The Salukis (3-0) advanced to Sunday's championship game, where they'll play either Southern California or Miami of Ohio, which met later Friday. The teams take Saturday off.

Falker helped Southern Illinois pull away in the second half after leading by four at the break. He scored 13 of their first 15 points, while the Bulldogs (3-2) struggled with turnovers, finishing with 21.

"In the first half, they did a great job double-teaming me," he said. "I had to take my time and work on little things and get to the line and try to score."

Joshua Bone added 15 points, all on 3-pointers, for the Salukis.

"We were going to Randal pretty much every possession and they went to zone and Josh pretty much broke it," said Salukis guard Bryan Mullins, who had eight assists.

Jamont Gordon led Mississippi State with 20 points, becoming the first player to score 20 or more against the Salukis in nine games dating to last season.

"Gordon was phenomenal," Salukis coach Chris Lowery said. "We wanted to make him work harder in the second half and trap him further from the basket."

Southern Illinois shot 44 percent against the Bulldogs, who had held opponents to 32 percent on the season.

The Salukis set up their early second-half run when Bone hit three 3-pointers over the final 1:50 of the first half, and his first one tied the game at 26 before his next one gave the Salukis the lead for good.

Once Falker got Southern Illinois rolling, the Bulldogs never got closer than five points. Gordon's fourth 3-pointer pulled them to 47-42 before Bone hit back-to-back 3s that stretched Southern Illinois' lead to 11 points, and it stayed in double-digits the rest of the way.

"They threw the first punch of the second half," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. "We had no answer for him [Falker] in that post."

The Salukis made eight straight free throws in the final 5 1/2 minutes, including two by Mullins after he was intentionally fouled by Gordon, prompting Southern Illinois' large group of fans to chant "you can't do that."

"They're about as tough physically as any team I've been associated with in 10 years at Mississippi State," Stansbury said. "You can't fight back against that kind of team over and over. They probably outweighed us 25 pounds per person."

The Bulldogs didn't hit a field goal in the final 2 1/2 minutes.