Falando Wilkinson may be getting extra playing time because of numerous injuries up and down the Southwestern Illinois basketball roster.
The way the 6-foot-2 freshman guard from Collinsville changed the course of the game Thursday against Wabash Valley, he may be tough to get out of the lineup even after the Blue Storm are healthy again.
Wilkinson scored 13 points during a seven-minute stretch of the second half in which Southwestern outscored the host Warriors 22-9, turning a three-point game into a 16-point runaway.
Storm forward Raymond Ray soon followed with a six-point run of his own, and from there WVC went quietly into the night in an 86-69 Great Rivers Athletic Conference loss at Spencer Sports Center.
“He can really stroke it,” said Southwestern coach Jay Harrington of Wilkinson, who has gotten the bulk of the playing time since the loss of guards Kyle Lemons and Jaquail Townser.
Lemons returned to action five days ago and did play against the Warriors. Townser, with an L-5 stress fracture, is playing through the pain, and is due for another epidural in early December, according to Harrington.
That’s not all. Southwestern has already lost 6-foot-5 sophomore guard transfer Corvon Butler for the year with a knee injury. Returnee Brandon Book missed four weeks with a stomach hernia. And, forward Jacob Tolbert, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, just returned this week after being out since Aug. 19,
delayed once with a reinjury on the second day of practice.
“I’ve never had injuries like this in my life,” Harrington said. “We were happy just to be able to perform tonight.”
Wabash Valley (5-3, 0-1 in GRAC) jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, but Southwestern (6-1, 1-0) recovered before the half to carry a 39-38 lead into intermission.
“They’re a well coached team, and they’ll be up at the top of the conference at the end of the year,” said WVC coach Mike Carpenter. “We knew it would be a tough game. We got off to a good start, and our effort was good.”
He said the Warriors showed improvement on defense as well. “We got a little tired, got to within four or five, and took the wind out of our sails.”
Wilkinson finished with a game-high 18 points. Tolbert added 16 for the winners.
The Warriors may have been able to withstand Wilkinson’s onslaught had they fared better at the foul line, where they shot only 43 percent on 16-of-37 accuracy. Mikael Donaldson was 0-for-7, Sam Thompson 1-for-6 at the line.
“We’ve got to fix a couple of things, free throw shooting being one of them,” Carpenter said. “We can’t beat anybody when we miss 21 free throws. It’s not going to happen. We can only do so much as coaches. The players have to play and make plays. They went on runs and we didn’t match them,
and that was the story of the game.”
Southwestern, despite a sizeable advantage inside, collected only six more rebounds than the Warriors (41-35), who host Moberly, Mo. on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Tyrone Sherman, perfect at the foul line in six tries, led WVC with 16 points. Wesley Afolayan, who nursed his four fouls to the end, finished with 14, while Jaquan Lynch added 13 points.
“It’s always great to come back here,” said Harrington, the Hall of Famer who began his coaching career at WVC in the 1970s and was the coach of the first superstar team in school history, the 33-2 squad of 1977-78. “I love the people here. To come back and get a win is even better.”