EDWARDSVILLE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale seemed ripe for the picking, but the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars couldn't sustain their momentum.
After SIUE took a 44-43 lead eight minutes into the second half Tuesday, the Salukis responded with a 23-3 run and defeated the Cougars 71-55 before 3,507 at Vadalabene Center.
SIUE fell to 0-5 all-time against the Salukis, who played in Edwardsville for the first time since Jan. 8, 1987. The Cougars (1-2) hurt their cause by allowing 17 layups, 10 in the first half.
"I thought a lot of it came off our turnovers," said SIUE coach Lennox Forrester, whose team was charged with a season-high 20 miscues. "That's one thing we stressed before the game; we have to take care of the basketball.
"I thought we did a poor job of taking care of the basketball, and a lot of that led to transition layups for them. Most of it was because of our turnovers."
The Cougars, who trailed by 13 points in the first half, went ahead by one on senior Derian Shaffer's layup with 11:59 to play in the game. That's when the bottom fell out for SIUE.
"They went zone. They changed their defense and went 2-3 zone," Forrester said. "We did a poor job attacking it. We just never got the ball inside-out like we talked about and worked on. Our guards weren't very good tonight. ... Our guards were very poor."
Sophomore starting guards Maurice Wiltz and Kris Davis combined for 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting. They had seven turnovers.
Shaffer led all players with 17 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds. Senior Mark Yelovich had 11 points for the Cougars.
The Salukis (3-0) had four players reach double figures: senior Jeff Early (16), senior Kendal Brown-Surles (15), freshman Anthony Beane Jr. (15) and junior Desmar Jackson (12). Early and Jackson had 10 rebounds apiece.
Beane had nine points in the 23-3 uprising.
SIUE coach Barry Hinson was proud of the way his players re-established control after falling behind on Shaffer's layup.
"I was really happy," he said. "That's what we talked about. When they took the lead, at the media timeout, we told our players, 'Hey, this is good for us. This is what we need. We need to see if we can respond to this challenge.'
"And I tell you what, from that point on, we were pretty efficient. We did a good job other than a couple of bonehead plays."
The Salukis, who are picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference, are on a three-game winning streak for the first time since early in the 2009-10 season.
"When you look at it from our standpoint, it is a big game for us," Forrester said. "Maybe not so for Carbondale, but for us it is. Here you are, the so-called 'sister school,' and you're trying to make a name for yourself.
"We wish we could have done a better job, but it had a lot to do with how hard Carbondale played and how well they played. We took the lead and they regrouped down the stretch and won the game."
Senior Jerome Jones, who scored 26 points in the Cougars' 62-50 victory over Western Illinois on Wednesday, did not start and finished with just nine points before being ejected with 6:16 to play in the game.
Five of Jones' teammates also were ejected, as was an SIUC player, following a scuffle in front of the SIUE bench. The Cougars finished the game with just seven players.
Forrester said Jones didn't start because of disciplinary reasons.
"I expect things from our guys on and off the floor," Forrester said. "It wasn't anything major. You try to teach them life lessons as you try to teach them basketball. It was more of a life-lesson situation more than anything."
Sophomore Josh Swan hit an off-balanced jumper ahead of the buzzer to put the Salukis ahead 35-28 at halftime.
SIUE's defense was porous in the first half as it allowed 10 layups. SIUC also made three 3-pointers and four free throws, with Swan's shot accounting for the only other basket.
The Salukis rolled to an 18-7 lead on Early's layup with 12:12 remaining in the half. SIUE trimmed its deficit to 18-14 on Yelovich's three-point play, senior Zeke Schneider's putback and sophomore Kris Davis' dunk after a steal at midcourt.
SIUC reclaimed a 31-18 lead with a 12-4 surge culminated by Brown-Surles' 3-pointer at the 4:12 mark.
The Cougars used a 10-2 push to get within 33-28 with 32 seconds left, but Swan grabbed a missed 3-pointer by senior T.J. Lindsay on the right elbow and banked in his rushed attempt to put the Salukis ahead by seven.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.