CHARLESTON, Ill. – SIUE men's basketball dropped a 68-56 decision Saturday at Eastern Illinois in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Cougars dropped to 9-20 overall and 5-13 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Cougars will be the No. 8 seed at next week's OVC Tournament at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. It is the first time SIUE has qualified for the tournament since the 2015 season.
The Cougars will face the No. 5 seed Tennessee Tech in the Opening Round Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
"We're fortunate that we have put ourselves into position to get into the tournament," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We're there, it's a new season and anything can happen in Evansville."
SIUE led early in the contest, but trailed 32-28 at half. The Cougars took their first lead of the second half when Jalen Henry hit a pair of free throws to make it 45-43 with 9:06 left.
The Cougars had a 50-49 lead after a layup from Christian Ellis with 7:46 to play.
"We traded baskets for three or four possessions," Harris said. "Then on offense, we quit moving the ball. We weren't moving. We forgot what got us to that point."
Eastern Illinois proceeded on a 14-0 run to take over and led 63-50 with 1:01 to play in the game.
"We're very frustrated and disappointed with our effort," Harris said. "They completely outplayed us in the second half. They were the aggressors."
Henry led the Cougars with 20 points. The senior now has 1,045 points, which ties him for No. 12 all-time in scoring. Fellow senior Keenan Simmons turned in a double-double of 12 point and 10 rebounds.
"They did some good things and they played some extended minutes so they're fighting through fatigue," Harris said of the senior duo.
Ray Crossland led Eastern Illinois with 18 points. Muusa Dama, Mack Smith and Montell Goodwin chipped in 12 points apiece for the Panthers.
"We have to refocus and get back to the basics so that when we get down to Evansville, we're ready to go," Harris said.