EDWARDSVILLE – The Cougars fought to the finish Saturday, but fell to Jacksonville State 72-61 in an Ohio Valley Conference at the Vadalabene Center.
Jacksonville State strong-armed SIUE in improving to 15-11 overall and 7-4 in the OVC. The Cougars, bowing for the 11th consecutive time, slipped to 5-20 and 0-11 in front of 1,203 fans.
Senior Burak Eslik said there's plenty of fight left in the SIUE men's basketball game.
"Most of the games we have lost, we have been in the games," said Eslik. "We have to learn to play 40 minutes strong and keep playing strong all of the time."
SIUE hasn't won a game since Dec. 28 and Harris is trying to keep the Cougars competing in a spirited manner. Their 11 OVC losses have come by an average of 11 points and three of them are by six or fewer points.
"It's hard because we aren't where we want to be now," Harris said. "We want to maintain a positive attitude and continue to push hard."
Eslik, Josh White and Christian Ellis brought plenty of determined play to the Cougars' effort. They combined for 44 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Eslik led the way with 21 points. White, a senior from Edwardsville, pitched in 12 points while Ellis, a freshman from Oakland, California, scored 11 points.
"We're going to play hard until the end of the season," Eslik said. "It has been tough for us because we put in a lot of work in the summer."
"Burak has really been aggressive the last couple of games," Harris noted. "Overall, I think we have some talent. We've just struggled to score."
Freshman guard Tyrik Edwards led Jacksonville State with 19 points. He made 7 of 11 shots, including a 3-pointer and sank 4 of 5 free throws. The Gamecocks hit 22 of 54 shots, four of them from three-point range. They made 24 of 33 free throws.
SIUE, meanwhile, made 21 of 57, and was 4 of 13 on three-pointers. The Cougars hit on 15 of 22 free throws, all in the second half. They didn't shoot a free throw in the first half when the Gamecocks made 8 of 10 fouls shots on their way to a 29-21 lead.