Grant Fiorentinos poured in 21 points Saturday to lead Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s basketball, but it wasn’t enough to overcome 11 three-pointers from IPFW. The Mastodons defeated the Cougars 87-67 at Memorial Coliseum.
IPFW has won three consecutive games and improved to 3-1 with the win. The Cougars dropped to 1-2 with the loss.
“We didn’t come out with the intensity that we needed on the defensive end,” SIUE coach Jon Harris said. “(IPFW) got some open looks early and they got a little confidence. Our guys tried to battle. When you’re on the road in a hostile environment and you give a team a little confidence it’s hard to bounce back.”
SIUE returns home for a 7 p.m. game Tuesday against Campbell. SIUE will honor former coach and athletic director Harry Gallatin prior to the game.
“We’ve been better at home,” Harris said. “Our guys will be excited for the opportunity. We have to digest this one and see where we can better. It will be another test for us on Tuesday.”
Fiorentinos scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, but IPFW connected on seven three-pointers in the period and too a 16-point lead (45-29) at the break.
Fiorentinos led the way thanks to strong play around the basket. He was 6 for 7 from the field in the half and 8 of 13 for the game, helping SIUE to a 36-26 advantage in points in the paint. Fiorentinos added five points from the free throw line and also grabbed six rebounds.
“Grant was great,” Harris said. “He’s been our most consistent guy in practice as far as effort, attitude and approach. Every day Grant has been a high-energy guy. That paid off for him tonight. Now we have to get the other guys to come with him.”
An initial surge to start the second half saw IPFW extend its lead to 20 points when back-to-back three-pointers by DeAngelo Stewart made it 59-39 with 13:35 to play.
Michael Calder hit a three-pointer at 10:05 to make it 62-45 when SIUE made a run.
The Cougars proceeded on an 11-3 run over the next 3:11, capped by a three-pointer from C.J. Carr to make it 65-56 with 6:54 to play. Carr scored five points during the run and finished the game with eight.
“We’ve done that in all three games this year,” Harris said of the strong play in the second half. The key for us is learning how to start games. When you come out with a mindset and mentality where your body is warm and you’re ready to play from the onset then it’s a back-and-forth affair instead of playing catch-up.”
The Cougars got as close as nine on two other occasions. Fiorentinos hit a pair of free throws to make it 67-58 with 6:15 left. Burak Eslik hit a runner to make it 69-60 with 4:51 to play. Eslik tied his career high with 15 points on a 6-for-13 shooting day from the floor. He led the team with seven rebounds.
“Burak did a better job,” Harris said. “He was more patient he let things come to him. He didn’t force the issue. Where he has to get better is on the defensive end of the floor.”
IPFW was able to pull away and connected on 10 of 13 free throws in the final four minutes to help close out the win.
“We don’t have guys that have been through the fire, but I’m not going to make excuses,” Harris added. “We have to be better. We have a couple of days before our next game on Tuesday. We have to find a way to be better experience or not.”
Jalen Henry scored in double figures for the third time this season. Henry scored 11 points, including seven at the free throw line.
Joe Reed led four IPFW players in double figures. He scored 20. Max Landis scored 19 and hit a pair of three-pointers. Stewart connected on three triples and finished with 12 points.
IPFW shot 47.5 percent from the field, including 51.9 percent (14-27) in the second half. The Mastodons were 11 of 27 (40.7 percent) from three-point range.
“They got a lot of their three-pointers off the drive and kick,” Harris said. “We’re not doing a very good job of staying in front of the ball. Our big guys have to do a better job rotating. We have to recover on the weak side and get our hands up on shooters.”