SIUE overcame a 16-point deficit to post one of its most meaningful men’s basketball wins of the season Thursday night at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars erupted for an explosive 51-point second half to overtake Morehead State 83-76 in Ohio Valley Conference play and improve to 7-14 overall. SIUE lifted its record to 3-6 in the league. Morehead State dropped to 8-15 and 4-5.
“I think it was a great win and we found a way to rally around each other, especially on the defensive end,” SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. “We got some stops when we really needed to get them. It’s all part of the process and the chemistry is so strong on this team.”
Tyresse Williford’s 23 points, including 16 in the second half, spurred the Cougars, who recorded their biggest comeback of the season. Williford served as a catalyst in the big second half when SIUE made 17 of 26 shots. He also sank four free throws in the final 18.9 seconds to put the finishing touches on the win.
“We came together at halftime,” said Williford, pointing to Morehead State’s 40-32 lead at the break. “The first half wasn’t our best or worst one of the season, but in the second half, we started getting defensive stops and controlled the pace of the game.”
Morehead State led 34-18 with 6:30 remaining in the first half before the Cougars rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They used an 11-0 run to get back into the game and trailed 40-32 at halftime.
And SIUE was far from finished. Reserve Jaylen McCoy sparked them in the second half with an eight-point flurry in 2.5 minutes and the Cougars caught the Eagles at 53-53 with 12:36 remaining.
Once SIUE forged ahead 64-63 on a McFarland free throw with 7:19 remaining, the Eagles couldn’t catch the Cougars. They hiked their lead to 72-63 with 4:26 to play and made their free throws to secure the win.
Jordan Walker’s 22 points led Morehead State.
“I thought we executed our game from start to finish against a good Morehead State team,” Harris said. “Why we got into trouble early in the game was because we took some questionable shots and had four or five unforced turnovers.”
The Cougars, halfway through their OVC schedule, remain at home Saturday against OVC foe Eastern Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.