Keaton Jackson’s defensive rebound and subsequent pair of free throws with five seconds left completed a 13-1 run by SIUE men’s basketball and sealed a 71-67 Ohio Valley Conference victory over visiting Austin Peay Thursday at Vadalabene Center.
The win moves the Cougars to 2-3 in OVC play and 5-13 overall. Austin Peay dropped to 8-10 and 2-2 in the OVC.
“I thought our guys did an excellent job of executing down the stretch,” SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. “We were fortunate to get some stops off steals and turnovers, and we did a good job capitalizing off that. Our execution was great on both ends of the floor.”
Edwardsville native Will Triggs gave the Governors their largest lead of the night at eight points with a layup that made it 66-58 with 2:27 to play. Maurice Wiltz connected on a 3-pointer for SIUE with 2:11 left to bring the Cougars within five points at 66-61.
Following an APSU turnover, Jackson was able to layup a shot from under the basket to make it 66-63. The Governors turned the ball over a second time, and Donivine Stewartfound Wiltz on the left wing. Wiltz splashed in his third 3-pointer of the game to even the score at 66-66. Austin Peay’s Damarius Smith was fouled with 29 seconds left and made the second of two free throws, giving the ball back to SIUE with the Cougars trailing 67-66.
Stewart attempted a three from the left corner, but the shot spun around the rim before falling out. Rozell Nunn fought for the rebound and tossed the ball back to the basket despite being knocked to the floor. Nunn’s shot fell as did his free throw to put the Cougars ahead for good 69-67.
“The basketball bounced our way at the end, and Rozell did a great job crashing the glass,” Forrester said. “I thought he did a nice job of keeping his concentration while he was getting fouled.”
It was the Cougars’ first lead in the half since a Nunn layup made it 36-34 SIUE just 17 seconds into the period.
“Coach told us to crash the boards at the end of the game,” Nunn said. “I wasn’t sure how much time was left so I had to force up a shot and just try to make a play.”
Nunn led the Cougars with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. The junior also finished with a team-high seven rebounds. Kris Davis and Donivine Stewart each added 10 points. Stewart added five assists, while Davis dished out three helpers. Wiltz and Tim Johnsoneach finished the night with nine points.
The eight-point lead by Austin Peay was the largest lead either team enjoyed. Indicative of a tight conference game, the score was tied eight times while the lead changed just twice.
Save for three instances where the game was tied, the Cougars led the entire first half. Triggs tied the game for the Governors with 27 seconds left in the first and the two teams went into the locker room even at 34-34.
The Cougars’ edge came in the turnover department. The Cougars forced 22 turnovers by the Governors, a season high for Austin Peay, and was the most turnovers forced by the Cougars this season. The Cougars finished with 12 steals, also a season high.
SIUE entered the game 0-5 in games decided by five points or less. The Cougars also had suffered three one-point losses.
“There have been five or six games that have come down to the wire but didn’t go our way,” Forrester added. “But our guys are resilient, and they showed that tonight.”
Austin Peay’s Chris Horton led all players with his 20 points and 11 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the year. Triggs added 17 points and nine rebounds. Smith scored 11 for the Governors.
SIUE remains at home and plays host to Murray State Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. The game will be televised live on FOX Sports Midwest.