Nashville – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville dropped a 66-61 decision to Tennessee State Thursday night in Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball at the Gentry Center.
The loss dropped SIUE to 7-7 in the OVC, and prevented the Cougars from officially clinching a bid to the OVC Tournament. SIUE dropped to 11-17 overall. Tennessee State improved to 4-24 overall and 3-11 in the OVC.
In a game in which neither team led by more than six points, Tennessee State prevailed partly on the strength of eight 3-pointers; better than three more than their season average.
“We had a lot of mental breakdowns defensively,” SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. “We didn’t compete as hard as we could have especially on the defensive end. We didn’t do a good job of guarding their penetration or closing out on their shooters when we went zone.”
In a sign of things to come, the Tigers opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers to lead 6-0 less than a minute into the game. It didn’t take long for the Cougars to come back. A Keaton Jackson jumper moved SIUE in front 12-11 with 15:07 to play before half. A 3-pointer by Christian Salecich at 10:53 gave SIUE its largest lead, 24-19. The Cougars led 33-30 at halftime.
Prior to the start of the second half, the Nashville area was put under a tornado warning, forcing the upper areas of the building to be cleared, and keeping both teams in the locker rooms. Play was delayed for more than 30 minutes.
“It’s the same for both teams,” Forrester said of the delay. “As much as you’d like to use that as an excuse, you really can’t. (Tennessee State) had to sit the same amount of time.”
The back-and-forth play continued at the start of the second half, with the Cougars maintaining a slim lead for the first eight minutes of the period.
The Cougars last lead came on a Jackson dunk to make it 45-44 with 12:03 left. TSU’s Jordan Gaither hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, with another Jackson dunk sandwiched in-between, and the Tigers led 50-47 with 9:42 to play. SIUE evened the score with a free throw by Maurice Wiltz, and a layup by Jackson to make it 50-50 at the 8:39 mark.
Kris Davis tied the score at 52 with a jumper with 6:20 to play. The Tigers’ Patrick Miller knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 55-52 and TSU never trailed again.
The OVC’s leading scorer, Miller scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, where the Tigers outscored the Cougars 36-28. M.J. Rhett added 16 points and 11 rebounds for TSU. Chaed Wellian scored 12 points.
Davis led the Cougars with 14 points. He was 6 of 10 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. Jackson finished with 12 points.
SIUE is off until Wednesday when OVC East Division leader Belmont makes its first-ever visit to Edwardsville for a 7 p.m. game.
“We have to be ready for Belmont, whether its tomorrow or next week,” Forrester said.