NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville junior Kris Davis scored a game-high 19 points Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee Tech fought off a Cougar comeback for a 74-67 victory over SIUE in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Municipal Auditorium.
SIUE ends the season at 11-20. Tennessee Tech improved to 17-15 and advances to Thursday night’s quarterfinal game against Morehead State.
Down 16 at half, the Cougars used a 53.6 percent (15-28) shooting performance in the second half to pull within four in the game’s final 90 seconds.
“I didn’t think we played well, especially defensively yet it was a four-point game before (TTU’s Jeremiah) Samarrippas hit the three with about 1:30 to play,” SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. “Our guys did a tremendous job fighting back and staying in the game to where we had a chance down the stretch.”
Davis was 5 for 12 from the field, including 2 for 4 from 3-point range, and connected on 7 of 8 attempts at the free throw line.
“He was aggressive. He was aggressive the way I know he can be,” Forrester said of Davis. “He was scoring in a variety of ways. He was making threes, he was scoring at the rim, and he was scoring at the free throw line.”
Davis surpassed 900 points for his career with the 19 point-effort. He now has 906 points and is 20th all-time in scoring at SIUE.
SIUE shot just 25 percent (7-28) in the first half, while allowing Tennessee Tech to shoot 59.1 percent (13-22). TTU led 38-22 at the break.
“We didn’t want to dig ourselves a hole,” Forrester added. “We knew how dangerous of a team Tennessee Tech is.”
SIUE opened the second half on a 6-0 run to trim the TTU lead to 10 at 38-38. The Cougars cut the lead to 10 twice more before making their final push with 4:14 to play.Rozell Nunn missed three shots, and hauled the rebound each time, before finally nailing the stick back to make it 62-54. Tech pushed the lead back to 10 with a jumper from Dwan Caldwell at 3:25 before the Cougars reeled off the next six points.
Donivine Stewart and Davis each hit one of two free throws, Nunn buried a jumper, andTim Johnson finished the run with a drive to the basket and a layup to make it 64-60 with 1:55 to play.
Following a Golden Eagle timeout, Samarrippas buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to push the Tech lead back to 67-60 with 1:31 left.
The Cougars trimmed the lead back to five at 68-63 on a layup by Nunn with 38 seconds remaining. TTU hit 6 of 8 free throws over the final 35 seconds to seal the win.
Nunn finished with 14 points and a team-high six rebounds. Donivine Stewart was the only other SIUE player in double figures scoring. He finished with 13 points and added a team-high four assists.
Samarrippas led the Tennessee Tech effort with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Forrester was quick to praise the Golden Eagles’ senior. “Samarippas was tremendous with his court vision and controlling the floor,” he said.
Caldwell, Javon McKay, and Dennis Ogbe each scored 10 points. Caldwell added a game-best 9 rebounds.
Forrester praised his team for the progress they made during the year.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” he said. “They stuck together and they worked their butts off during the season, and even before that .They made some great things happen. They put our basketball program in a great state.”
Seniors Tim Johnson, Ray Lester and Christian Salecich each played their final games in an SIUE uniform. Forrester recognized their accomplishments as well. “Those three guys did a tremendous job helping our basketball program progress towards what we want to accomplish,” he said.