These are difficult times for the Southern Illinois University men’s basketball team.
The Cougars lost 76-56 to Tennessee State in an Ohio Valley Conference game Wednesday night at Vadalabene Center. It was the worst home loss this season for SIUE, which has dropped eight in a row and 14 of its last 15.
“They’re a tremendous rebounding team,” second-year SIUE coach Jon Harris said of the Tigers, who stopped a three-game skid. “They’ve got playmakers; they’ve got big guys.”
SIUE (5-17, 0-8 OVC) was without Edwardsville graduate Tre Harris, a redshirt sophomore and the nephew of Jon Harris. Tre Harris is still on the roster, but he took a leave of absence from the team in December for “personal reasons,” and Jon Harris did not elaborate on the reason for the absence.
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Sophomore Carlos Anderson, an Alton graduate, led the Cougars with 15 points. Junior Jalen Henry had 11 points, and junior Keenan Simmons had 10 points and seven rebounds.
SIUE never led in the game. The Cougars, who trailed 32-18 at halftime, got within eight on a 3-pointer by Henry with 18:19 to play, but could get no closer.
Tennessee State (13-8, 4-4) shot 57 percent from the field (28-for-49) and had 21 assists, including 12 from senior Tahjere McCall. The Tigers outscored the Cougars 34-18 in the paint and outrebounded them 33-20, which helped produce a 17-8 advantage in second-chance points.
“We battled,” Harris said. “We shot the ball really well in the second half (52 percent), so we’re more than capable. We just got off to a slow start.”
SIUE was 13-for-23 from the free-throw line (57 percent).
Reddick stands out
All of Tennessee State’s starters reached double figures, including junior guard Darreon Reddick, a Belleville East graduate who finished with 14 points and four 3-pointers.
“It’s always good to come home,” Reddick said. “I had a lot of people on my ticket list. Thirteen people came. It’s always good to play in front of family. I had family, some friends from high school, some coaches from high school. It was a mixture of everybody.”
Reddick was pleased with Tennessee State’s performance.
“We had to get back to our standard of guarding and rebounding,” he said. “We tried to come out as a team and guard the ball, rebound and take care of the ball. If we do that, we should win almost every game.”
As at Belleville East, Reddick is still able to use his dribble-drive to get to the rim and break down defenses. But his 3-point shooting also has come along. He connected on four of his six attempts against the Cougars.
“I feel like I can shoot better than in high school,” Reddick said. “I could drive in and shoot (then), but I’m a better shooter than (I was) in high school, for sure.”
Tennessee State Dana Ford said Reddick is a huge part of the team.
“He’s been awesome,” Ford said. “He just does what you ask him to as a coach. If you tell him to cut the court in half, literally he’ll cut the court in half. If you ask him to close out, his hand’s up every time. He’ll do it every time.
“He’s just a joy to coach. He’s a high-character kid. You know what you’re going to get. As a coach, the consistency is what we really appreciate.”
Reddick said he keeps in touch with his former teammates at East.
“Malcolm (Hill) and I, we still talk and everything,” Reddick said of the senior member of Illinois’ basketball team. “I miss high school all the time. I think about it. When I come home for Christmas break, Thanksgiving break, I visit the high school and chat with the coaches. I miss it all.”