EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE men's basketball used a strong defense and a balanced offense to earn its first Ohio Valley Conference win of the year, a 58-54 victory over Tennessee Tech at Vadalabene Center.
"I thought our guys did a great job. They stepped up and made some big plays," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "I also thought our defense did some really good things tonight. Our guys did a great job paying attention to detail and carrying out the game plan."
The Cougars, now 5-9 overall and 1-3 in the OVC, snapped a four-game losing streak with the win. Tennessee Tech fell to 7-10 and 1-4.
Michael Messer and Jerome Jones were the only Cougars to score in double figures, but three other SIUE players scored at least seven points. Messer led the team with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Jones scored 13 points. Messer was 7 of 8 from the free throw line, including hitting five in the game's last 15 seconds.
"Everybody's excited about this win," Messer said following the game. "Our first three conference games were games that we felt we let slip away. We came out with a purpose: to make sure we took care of business tonight."
Mark Yelovich chipped in nine points and five rebounds. Kris Davis scored eight points and dished out a game-high six assists. Derian Shaffer scored seven points while grabbing five rebounds. Ray Lester added five points while tying his career high with six rebounds.
The Cougars held Tennessee Tech to just 34 percent (16-47) from the field. The 16 made field goals by the Golden Eagles tied a season-low by an SIUE opponent.
SIUE connected on four three-pointers in the first half to take a three-point lead into the locker room 26-23. The Golden Eagles shot just 29 percent (7-24) in the first half and missed all 12 of their attempts from three-point range.
Tennessee Tech's Jud Dillard scored 29 points to lead all scorers while hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds.
"We tried to eliminate Dillard to some extent, and we threw a number of guys at him," Forrester said. "Dillard is a great player, and I thought our guys did a nice job on him."
The Cougars extended the lead to as many as 10 when Kris Davis hit a three-point shot to put SIUE on top 43-33 with 9:32 to play. Tennessee Tech remained in the game, thanks in part to a disparity in free throws. The Golden Eagles hit 19 of 26 for the game, including 10 of 12 in the second half. SIUE hit just 51.5 percent (17-33) for the game. Aside from Messer the Cougars were 10-25 (28.5 percent) from the charity stripe. The Golden Eagles also outrebounded the Cougars 38-32.
SIUE returns to the road to continue OVC play with games at Austin Peay and Murray State Thursday and Saturday of this coming week.
"I'm glad our guys were able to grind this one out, come out on top, and finally win one," Forrester added. "It was really good and really important to get this win with two tough road games coming up against Austin Peay and Murray State."