Michael Messer's reverse layup attempt rolled off the front of the rim as time expired Saturday, allowing Central Michigan to escape with a 65-64 win at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in at Vadalabene Center.
"This was a tough one to swallow because we didn't execute down the stretch," SIUE coach Lennox Forrester said. "We gave up too many offensive rebounds, and we didn't do a great job of keeping guys in front of us without fouling."
Maurice Wiltz scored a career-high 17 points for the Cougars, who fell to 2-7 with the loss. Wiltz connected on 6 of 8 shots from the field, including a personal-best five three-pointers. The junior buried a three-pointer from the top of the key with 17 seconds to play to put SIUE in front 64-63.
"I thought (Maurice) really stepped it up tonight," Forrester said.
Central Michigan's Chris Fowler drove to the basket and rolled in a layup with just six seconds to play to put the CMU up 65-64.
On the ensuing possession Cameron Craig tried a three-pointer with time running out. His attempt came up short, but Messer was there for the final attempt. The two teams exchanged leads 14 times during the night, including five times in the game's final 54 seconds.
Messer finished with 11 points and six rebounds for the Cougars. Forrester lauded the junior's performance."
Fowler scored a game-high 23 points, including the last five points of the game, for Central Michigan, which improved to 6-3 with its fourth straight win.
Ray Lester tied his career high with 10 points for the Cougars.
Now, the Cougars will travel to Fort Wayne, Ind., for a 6 p.m. Saturday with the Mastodons.
Western Kentucky 69, SIUC 60
In Carbondale, Brandon Harris scored a career-high 30 points as Western Kentucky defeated Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Harris went 8 of 17 from the field, 6 of 6 from the line and sank eight 3-pointers. George Fant had 19 points with five rebounds for the Hilltoppers (5-3). Aaron Adeoye chipped in with 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds, with two assists, one steal and four blocks.
Tied 34-34 at the break, the Salukis (2-7) took an early second period lead that lasted until 11:22 when Harris sank three 3-pointers within two minutes to put the Hilltoppers back on top 52-46. Beane led SIUC with 20 points and three rebounds.
SIUE 76, Air Force 65
In Colorado Springs, Colo., the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars raced out to a 14-0 lead and never trailed in a victory over host Air Force at the Air Force Classic.
Jessie Wendt hit a game-high four 3-pointers and was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 21 points against the Falcons, now 1-6. Wendt averaged 22.5 points per game for the weekend.
SIUE held the Falcons to 34.9 percent shooting (22-63) and won the battle of the boards 41-33. The Cougars also converted 20 of 29 free throw attempts.
McKendree 71, Ill-Springfield 64
In Lebanon, McKendree had four score in double-digits on Saturday to win its Great Lakes Valley Conference game over University of Illinois-Springfield.
The Bearcats improve to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the GLVC with the win and will host Missouri Baptist University on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.
Junior guard Caty Ponce led all players with 20 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 effort from the free throw line.