SIUE falls to Loyola at Portland State Tournament

Special to the News-DemocratNovember 24, 2013 

— Southern Illinois University Edwardsville sophomore Donivine Stewart led all players with a career-high 22 points Sunday, but it wasn't enough as Loyola slipped by the Cougars 73-72 at the Portland State Tournament.

SIUE (1-5) lost all three games at the tournament by a combined nine points.

"I think this basketball team is getting better," SIUE coach Lennox Forrester said. "Playing with so many new guys we came out to get better, and I think we have."

Stewart was 8 for 13 from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, also a career high.

"He was excellent. He played with some toughness, and he made some big shots," Forrester said of Stewart. "He's a gutsy player. He is our leader on and off the floor. He wants to win."

Loyola (3-4) won a back-and-forth battle thanks in part to shooting 57.1 percent (28-49) from the field.

The Ramblers got out to a 5-0 start and pushed its lead to five points four other times in the first half. Loyola led 24-19 with 7:16 when SIUE went on a 7-0 run to lead for the first time in the game. It was 28-24 SIUE with 4:42 to play in the half. The Cougars led 35-33 at halftime.

The Cougars built as large as a five point lead early in the second half, while Loyola pushed its lead to as many as seven (56-49) with 10:52 left. The Ramblers held a 58-53 lead when Stewart buried a three-pointer to make it 58-56 with 8:12 to play. From that point neither team enjoyed more than a four-point cushion. In all Sunday's game featured 12 lead changes and nine ties.

Michael Messer scored a season-high 14 points and was the only other Cougar in double figures. Messer was 6 for 8 from the field, including 2 for 2 from 3-point range.

"He was doing a great job making outside shots and then when they closed out on him he put the basketball on the floor and got to the rim," Forrester said. "He's been really good finishing around the basket. You talk about a guy who has been in our program for four years. I thought today he played like it."

Four players scored in double figures for the Ramblers. Christian Thomas, Jeff White, and Matt O'Leary each scored 14 points, while Nick Osborne scored 10.

Forrester said the team understands its situation.

"Our guys are down right now. We just have to keep working," he said. "No one is going to give us a win. We know we have to keep working to get (wins)."

The Cougars continue the season-long four-game road trip with a Tuesday night game at Oregon State.

"Playing against an opponent like Oregon State and playing them on their own floor is going to be a huge challenge," Forrester added. "What I want to see is for us to continue to make progress."

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