Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s basketball battled Belmont for the better part of 40 minutes Saturday night, but it was the Bruins who prevailed, defeating the Cougars 83-72 at Curb Event Center.
“We did some good things,” SIUE head coach Jon Harrissaid. “I am disappointed that our guys finally put a game together and competed at that level, and didn’t get the reward of a win.”
SIUE has dropped four straight and slipped to 3-7 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Belmont improved to a league-best 9-1 in the OVC and 17-6 overall.
A Christian Ellis layup and a David McFarland 3-pointer got the Cougars out to a 5-0 lead. SIUE finished the first half with a 32-30 lead over Belmont after a Daniel Kinchen 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
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“It’s progress for us,” Harris said. “It’s night and day in terms of effort, defensive focus and defensive intensity in a 48-hour turnaround. That’s hard to do against No. 1 in the league in their gym.”
Belmont carried the lead for nearly the next seven minutes.
The Bruins led 56-50 when Jalen Henry knocked down a three from the right wing, was fouled and converted the free throw to make it 56-54. Following a Belmont miss, Henry tied the game at 56 with a jumper at 7:26.
After another Bruins miss and a defensive rebound by Keenan Simmons, the Cougars went to work on offense. Henry was fouled again and made both free throws to put SIUE up 58-56 with 5:10 left.
The teams traded leads three more times before Austin Luke’s 3-pointer with 3:43 to play put the Bruins up for good at 65-63.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” Harris added. “We did some good things, but we just came up short.”
Belmont made nine foul shots over the final 1:01 to extend the lead.
“There’s a reason Belmont is first in the league,” Harris said. “They don’t make mistakes, and they capitalize when you break down.”
Henry led SIUE with 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. He was 5-8 from the floor and 6-7 at the free-throw line.
Henry moved into the top 20 all time in scoring at 916 points. He is seeking to become the 16th 1,000-point scorer at SIUE.
McFarland continued a run of good play, scoring 15 points. Ellis scored 13 points and added four rebounds. Ellis scored 11 points in the first half and was forced to sit much of the second in foul trouble. He and McFarland eventually both fouled out of the game.
“Foul trouble hurt us a little,” Harris admitted. “Fouls are part of the game. Others have to step up and be ready, and I thought they did.”
Belmont was led by Luke, who scored a game-high 25 points.
SIUE returns home to begin its second four-game homestand of the season. The Cougars will meet Tennessee Tech on Thursday at Vadalabene Center.