SIUE made several runs at Eastern Illinois in the second half Thursday at the Vadalabene Center, but that wasn’t quite enough for the Cougars.
They couldn’t overcome Eastern Illinois’ robust start and fell to the Panthers 79-65 in an Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball game.
The Panthers, sweeping the Cougars this season, improved to 14-12 overall and 7-6 in the OVC. SIUE dropped to 8-17 and 4-9 in suffering its fourth consecutive loss to EIU.
“What got us was all those three-pointers they (Panthers) made in the first half,” SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. “We had some miscues and miscommunication and got down by 14 points.”
No matter what the Cougars tried on defense didn’t make much difference in the first 20 minutes. EIU hit 11 of 21 threes the first half building a 40-26 lead and never looked back.
Brandon Jackson paced SIUE with another double-double effort. He scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Jackson tallied all of his points in the first half. Meanwhile, Jaylen McCoy (12 points) and Daniel Kinchen (11 points) registered all of their scoring in the second half. McCoy matched his season high in points.
“I thought we had pretty good balanced from those guys,” Harris said. “It was nice to see Jaylen and Daniel hit some shots. Brandon had a good first half and got a lot of his points from offensive rebounds. We tried to get him going more in the second half, but they did a good job defensively on him.”
Mack Smith (18 points), Josiah Wallace (16 points) and Ben Harvey (15 points) spurred the visiting Panthers.
“Our offense wasn’t an issue,” Harris said. “Scoring 65 points isn’t a bad number of points. We just gave up too many shots defensively.”
The Cougars resume OVC action Saturday when UT Martin comes calling at 2 p.m. SIUE will be seeking payback after bowing to the Skyhawks 85-69 on Jan. 26 in Tennessee. The Cougars have five conference dates remaining before the OVC tournament begins March 6 in Evansville, Indiana. The top eight teams qualify for the league tourney.
“With five conference games to go, every conference game is magnified,” Harris said. “We need to win at home and we let this one slip away. UT Martin will be tough because they are playing better now than they were earlier in the season.”