MOREHEAD, Ky. – Maurice Wiltz scored 16 points in his return to the lineup Thursday night, but it wasn't enough as Morehead State defeated SIUE men's basketball 68-64 in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both schools.
SIUE dropped to 4-7 overall and 0-1 in the OVC with Thursday's loss. Morehead State improved to 7-8 overall and 1-0 in the OVC.
"We have to keep getting healthy, get better and keep working," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "We have a long way to go. We still have 15 more conference games left."
Wiltz returned to the SIUE lineup after missing four games due to injury. The sophomore guard was a career best 6 for 9 from the field and 4 for 5 from three-point range.
"He was tremendous," Forrester said. "He gives us another shooter out there. I wish we could have had him for more minutes, but the minutes he gave us were very productive."
Morehead State took an eight-point lead into the half thanks in part to an 11-2 run to close the period.
Kris Davis hit a jumper to move the Cougars ahead at 21-20 with 5:40 to play in the half, but was called for an offensive foul after the shot. MSU's Drew Kelly hit one free throw to tie the score at 21-21 and the Eagles scored the next 10 points. Zeke Schneider hit a turnaround-hook shot from five feet away to make it 31-23 at the break.
The Eagles also outrebounded SIUE 28-9 in the first half, which included hauling in 15 offensive boards.
"We did a terrible job in the first half of blocking out," Forrester added. "The 15 offensive rebounds helped dig ourselves a hole, and not making free throws."
The Cougars were just 5 for 10 from the foul line during the first 20 minutes.
SIUE immediately trimmed MSU's lead to five at the start of the second half thanks to a three-point play from Derian Shaffer. Shaffer opened the half with a layup and was fouled on the shot. He sank the free throw to make the score 31-26. Shaffer finished with nine points.
An 8-0 run by the Eagles gave them their largest lead of the game at 13 points (39-26) with 17:37 to play in the game.
The Cougars cut into the lead numerous times, but never could get closer than four points. Morehead State led 47-36 before a Davis layup cut the lead back to nine points with 9:34 to go. The Eagles never again led by double digits.
The Cougars stayed in the game thanks to hot shooting in the second half. SIUE connected for 51.9 percent (14-27) of its shots in the second half, but eight second half turnovers by the Cougars didn't help the cause. Four of the Cougars' turnovers came in the game's final four minutes.
"Turnovers killed us in the second half," Forrester said. "We had it within reach, and our execution level down the stretch wasn't very good. Being mentally-tough down the stretch has to be improved."
Davis finished with 14 points and five assists for SIUE. Derian Shaffer scored 10 points. Mark Yelovich led the Cougars with four rebounds.
The Eagles finished the game with a 44-23 advantage in rebounds. Chad Posthumus grabbed 19 rebounds for Morehead State, including 10 offensive rebounds. Milton Chavis led the Eagles with 16 points. Angelo Warner kicked in 14 points. Drew Kelly scored 12.
The Cougars move on to play at Eastern Kentucky Saturday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT. It is the second game of a double-header. The SIUE women will play at Eastern Kentucky prior to the men's game.