Four Southern Illinois University Edwardsville players scored in double figures, and the Cougars combined to shoot 61.2 percent from the field en route to their first road win of the year, an 87-82 win over the University of Tennessee Martin in Ohio Valley Conference action at Skyhawk Arena.
“I am thrilled for our guys that they were able to pull one out tonight,” SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. “It was a great team effort by every single one of them.”
The win moves the Cougars to 4-4 in OVC play and 7-14 overall. UT Martin fell to 7-16 and 2-6 in the OVC.
Kris Davis scored a season-high 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting. He was 2 for 2 from 3-point range and 4 for 4 at the free throw line. The last two free throws came with less than two minutes to play, after the junior guard had sprained his ankle. He left the game immediately after making the shots.
“He was at the free throw line and the ankle was swelling up on him at the line,” Forrester said. “He hung in there and made some tough plays for us.”
Keaton Jackson turned in a career-high 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting and added five rebounds. Jackson also blocked four shots in the game; the fifth time he has done so this season. Donivine Stewart was 6 of 8 from the field and scored 15 points, while adding six assists. Maurice Wiltz scored 14 points. He was 4 for 4 from the field, including 2 for 2 from 3-point range.
“Our team is a basketball team,” Forrester said. “I want it to be where it’s not on one guy’s shoulders to carry the burden as far as scoring. Guys are stepping up night after night and putting us in position to win.”
SIUE held an early 11-8 lead following a 3-pointer by Tim Johnson, a UT Martin miss, a defensive rebound by Stewart and a dunk by Jackson in transition. UT Martin then pulled away thanks to an 11-0 run. The Skyhawks had their largest lead of the game at 24-13 after a Terrance Smith layup with 9:34 to play in the first half.
Davis, Stewart, and Christian Salecich hit 3-pointers for the Cougars in a 15-3 run which put SIUE on top 28-27 with 5:51 left in the half. The Cougars led 34-33 at halftime.
Smith put hit a running layup for UT Martin 13 seconds into the second half to give the Skyhawks a 35-34 lead. It was the last time the Skyhawks led.
SIUE built its lead to 13 points on two occasions. Wiltz made it 64-51 with a layup with 10:11 to play. A Stewart layup with 9:25 left made it 66-53 Cougars.
Smith and Dee Oldham each hit two three-pointers down the stretch for UT Martin to make things interesting, but SIUE was able to hold off the late charge.
“It wasn’t pretty to start and it wasn’t pretty down the stretch, but our guys hung in there,” Forrester added. “If you look at our last three road games, we’ve been right there.”
Smith led all scorers with 22 points. He connected on 8 of 10 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 3-point attempts. Oldham added 16 points, and also was 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Myles Taylor scored 15 points and Mike Liabo scored 12 for UT Martin.
The Cougars entertain nonconference foe Crowley’s Ridge College Wednesday at the Vadalabene Center before returning to OVC play on the road at Eastern Illinois next Saturday.
“Hopefully we can enjoy this one and see if we can get another on the road,” Forrester said.