The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 9, 2012

Former MSSU assistants Lusk, Lowery set for clash

Former roommates and teammates at Southern Illinois University and then coaches at Missouri Southern, Chris Lowery and Paul Lusk are on opposite benches Tuesday night.

Lusk’s Missouri State Bears play host to Lowery’s SIU Salukis at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday in a Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball game at the JQH Arena in Springfield.

But neither has thought much about their first matchup as head coaches.

“Chris and my relationship goes way beyond basketball,” Lusk said. “We’re close friends. We’ve been through a lot as players, and we’ve worked together. I really haven’t given it much thought. I’ll be concentrating on trying to win the game.

“You don’t want to go against a friend. It’s similar to when we played Missouri Southern (in the I-44 Hoops Classic Presented by Wendy’s on Nov. 5). I have a great deal of respect for Chris just like I do for Coach (Robert) Corn.”

“I don’t pay any attention to that,” Lowery said. “It’s like Coach (Bruce) Weber and Coach (Matt) Painter (former coaches at SIU). It something that people outside the game talk about leading up to the game.”

Lowery and Lusk were assistants under Corn on the 1999-2000 Missouri Southern team that finished 30-3, won MIAA and South Central Regional championships and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Tournament in Louisville.

“It seems like such a long time ago,” said Lowery, who left the next season to become an assistant at Southeast Missouri State. “My oldest daughter (Lexis), who was 4 when we left Joplin, is now a junior in high school. We (Chris and wife Erika) have four children now. They’ve all grown up.”

Lowery’s memories of Joplin resurfaced last May 22.

“Obviously the tornado brought a lot of things back,” Lowery said. “You think of all the things you saw on TV, places you used to go get destroyed, it was a tough time. I was trying to get ahold of Coach Corn for hours and couldn’t. You’re thinking the worse. I finally got ahold of him later that night.”

Lusk and Lowery played on NCAA Tournament teams at SIU in 1993 and 1994.

Lowery ranks 24th on the Salukis’ career scoring list with 1,225 points in 125 games, and Lusk is 38th with 1,031 points in 91 games. Lowery also is fifth in career assists with 391.

“I always knew where he was as a player,” Lowery said. “When he first transferred (from Iowa), he moved in with me. We got a chance to get closer before we played a game, and after we became teammates, we were really close.”

“My junior year was my best year from a statistical standpoint,” Lusk said. “A lot of that had to do with playing with such a good point guard.”

Missouri  State, in its first year under Lusk, is 10-6 overall and shares the Missouri Valley Conference lead at 3-1 with Creighton, Wichita State and Illinois State.

Lowery has a 142-103 record in his eight years at SIU. This year the Salukis are 5-10 and 2-2 in the Valley, tied for fifth with Northern Iowa and Evansville.

“This year the league is as good as it’s been in a long time,” Lusk said.

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