David McFarland scored a season-best 22 points for the SIUE Cougars on Thursday, but Southeast Missouri overcame his fireworks to post an 86-74 win at the Vadalabene Center.
Redhawks sophomore Denzel Mahoney celebrated his 20th birthday in style by scoring a career-high 36 points. SIUE fell to 7-11 overall and 3-4 in the OVC. SEMO improved to 9-11 and 3-4.
"They have a good team and Mahoney is a very talented player," SIUE head coach Jon Harris said. "We have to do a better job on him."
Mahoney made 9 of 14 shots, including 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range. He also converted 13 of 15 free throws and grabbed seven rebounds. McFarland poured in all of his points in the second half to keep the Cougars within striking distance of the Redhawks.
"David is a very capable guy and a big part of it with him is taking time to adjust," Harris said of the transfer from East Mississippi Community College. "He's in condition now and playing more with more confidence."
McFarland made 7 of 18 shots and hit 5 of 14 from 3-point range. He also sank three of four free throws and snagged nine rebounds.
"I got to feeling it," McFarland said of his strong second-half shooting. "My shots started going down and I was playing with more confidence. But we have to do a better job on defense as a team."
SEMO erupted for 51 second-half points after securing a 35-28 halftime lead.
"I didn't think our defense was that bad in the first half, but we missed some shots we usually make," Harris said. "Then our offense struggled a little early in the second half and our defensive intensity wasn't there."
The Cougars trailed 64-46 with 11:21 remaining in the game, yet got to within 68-61 on Brandon Jackson's basket with 6:16 to go. However, SEMO scored eight of the next nine points and never looked back in boosting its lead to 76-62.
The Cougars finish their four-game home swing Saturday when they entertain UT Martin (6-14 and 1-6) at 1 p.m.