The SIUE men's basketball team earned the first Ohio Valley Conference win for Head Coach Jon Harris Saturday, defeating Eastern Kentucky 67-65 at Vadalabene Center.
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Cougars, who improved to 4-14 overall and 1-5 in the OVC. Eastern Kentucky dropped to 11-9 overall and 2-3 in the OVC.
"I'm excited for our group because we stayed the course," SIUE head coach Jon Harris said of the first conference win. "They've been right there so many times and we let a lot of close ones slip, so I'm very proud they found a way to win."
The Cougars held Eastern Kentucky scoreless over the final 3:00 of the game and turned a three-point deficit into the two-point win.
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"We found a way to get stops," Harris added. "We got loose balls and we got rebounds."
The Cougars trailed 32-31 at halftime, marking only the second time this season they have come back to win when trailing at the half. SIUE opened the second half on a 12-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 43-34 following a three-pointer by C.J. Carr with 16:22 to play in the game.
EKU, which didn't hit a three-pointer in the first half, got its first of the day from Issac McGlone at 7:52 to take back the lead at 53-54.
The game was tied five times over the last 7:29 and 11 times total. The lead changed 12 times.
Burak Eslik scored 21 points to lead SIUE in scoring for the third consecutive game. Eslik has averaged 28 points in those three games. Carlos Anderson added a career-high 18 points and nine rebounds. Carr added eight points and six assists. Jake Newton scored a season-high eight points off the bench and knocked down two three-pointers.
The 65 points are the second-fewest scored this season by EKU, which came into the game averaging 82.7 points per game, good for 24th best in the country. The Cougars also held the addvatage on the glass, outrebounding the Colonels 40-26. SIUE's 19 offensive rebounds led to 13 second-chance points.
"We outrebounded them by 14 and only let them get seven offensive rebounds," Harris said. "We held the best offensive team in the league to 65 points."
Nick Mayo scored a game-high 28 points to lead Eastern Kentucky. He was 10-14 from the field and 7 for 9 at the free throw line. Jarelle Reischel, the OVC's leading scorer, was limited to just 12 points. Javontae Hawkins added 10 points for the Colonels.
SIUE scored 28 points in the paint and held a two-point advantage in that category, while EKU used 19 SIUE turnovers to score 22 points.
The Cougars head back on the road for games at Austin Peay Thursday and Murray State Saturday. Thursday's tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Clarksville, Tenn.
"This is part of our growth," Harris said. "They'll continue to gain confidence from this. These players are putting themselves in more positions to find a way to get over the hump."