Down by as many as 21 points Saturday, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s basketball mounted a furious comeback attempt, only to come up short, falling 64-63 to Tennessee Tech in Ohio Valley Conference action at the Eblen Center.
After a layup by Donivine Stewart got the Cougars within one, 64-63, with 20 seconds left, Tennessee Tech’s Shirmane Thomas was fouled on the ensuing inbound play. Thomas missed a pair of free throws. The second of which was rebounded by SIUE’sMaurice Wiltz. Wiltz fed the ball to Stewart who weaved through traffic to get to the basket. His finger roll missed, as did Ray Lester’s put back attempt as time expired.
“If they make both free throws we’re going to run a play for a three to try and tie it,” SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester explained. “If they miss both or we’re down two, we’re in the bonus so we wanted to take the ball to the rim, which we did. Donivine had a good look, but missed it. Ray had a good look as far as tipping it in, it just didn’t go in.”
SIUE falls to 4-13 overall and 1-3 in OVC play with the loss. Tennessee Tech improved to 10-9 overall and 3-1 in the OVC.
The Cougars’ comeback bid began with 12:23 remaining. Trailing 55-38, SIUE reeled off the next 10 points and used a 13-2 run overall to cut the lead to 57-51 with 6:57 to play. The Golden Eagles built their lead back to 11 (63-52) with 4:45 to play, before the Cougars scored 11 of the game’s final 12 points.
SIUE connected on 66.7 percent (14-21) of its shots in the second half and shot 43.5 percent (20-46) for the game.
The second half highlights came on the heels of a first half which saw the Cougars make just six field goals. SIUE was 6 of 25 (24 percent) for the half, including going 1 for 9 from 3-point range. Tennessee Tech led 32-22 at halftime.
“I told our guys at half that we played bad basketball for 20 minutes and we’re only down 10,” Forrester said. “I told them if they we’re disciplined in the second half and stick to what we’re doing, and play good basketball they could win this game. Sure enough we did that.
To win in this league you have to play for 40 minutes and that we didn’t do, but yet we had a chance to win the game,” Forrester continued. “We just came up short.”
Kris Davis led all scorers with a season-high 17 points on 4 of 8 shooting. He was 3 for 7 from beyond the arc and 6 for 9 from the free throw line. He led SIUE with a career-high eight rebounds.
“He was solid, and he is so smart,” Forrester said of the junior. “You can put him at any position on the floor and he knows what to do and knows the plays.”
Keaton Jackson was the only SIUE player to score in double figures. He scored 11 points on 5 of 5 shooting. He added a free throw and a blocked shot. Stewart and Wiltz each added eight points.
Dennis Ogbe scored 16 points to lead the Golden Eagles. Jeremiah Samarrippas scored 11. Ladon Carter scored eight points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in the win.
“I thought our guys gave great effort second half, but we need to be a team that has 40 minutes of great effort and concentration if we want to win,” Forrester added. “I have great hopes for our team. We have to keep our heads up and keep plugging along. We still have 12 conference games left. We just have to keep working.”
The Cougars return home to host OVC West Division foes Austin Peay Thursday and Murray State Saturday.
“We talk about protecting home court. We’ve already let one go in conference,” Forrester said. “We have two tough teams. Austin Peay isn’t easy to play against and then we have Murray State right after that. That’s the joy and the fun of playing Division I basketball and competing at a high level.”