EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - UT Martin hit 30 of 36 free throw attempts Monday night to earn a 78-69 win over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in men's basketball at the Vadalabene Center.
"We didn't finish, what I thought was, a winnable game tonight," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said.
The Skyhawks, 8-14, hit all 13 attempts from the free throw line in the first half. UT Martin has now won four consecutive games for the first time since 2009.
SIUE drops to 5-17 with the loss.
In a very evenly-matched game, UT Martin started out hot, getting out to a 7-0 lead. Undeterred, the Cougars went on a 10-2 run to take a 10-9 lead with 13:24 to play before halftime. Kevin Stineman hit a layup with 9:46 to play in the half to put SIUE up 17-16, and the Cougars didn't trail again in the half.
SIUE led at the half for just the third time this season, 36-32.
The Cougars led for much of the second half, stretching the lead to six points twice. The last time coming after a Corey Wickware jumper made it 55-49 with 9:39 left.
UT Martin refused to give in and exploited the Cougars' foul trouble, cashing in for 17 points on free throws in the second half. "We did a poor job defending the dribble tonight," Forrester said. "We lost our cool a few times, lost our heads. (UT Martin) did a good job hitting their free throws."
Benzor Simmons drained a pair of free throws with 5:35 to play that put UT Martin in the lead for good, 62-61. Simmons led all scorers with 26 points. He was 16 of 18 from the free throw line. Reuben Clayton (16) and Terence Smith (15) also scored in double figures for UT Martin.
Following a timeout Cody Rincker hit one of two free throws with 2:45 to play to draw the Cougars within a point at 68-67, but that is as close as they would get. UT Martin pulled away thanks to foul shooting and two late turnovers by the Cougars.
Cornelius Chatt scored 20 points to lead the Cougars. It was Chatt's second consecutive 20-plus point effort and his fourth of the year. Wickware was the only other SIUE player to score in double figures. He added 11. Stineman scored nine. Dob Mavrak grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds for the Cougars in just 14 minutes of work.
The Cougars outrebounded UT Martin in the contest 40-39.
SIUE rests for just a day before welcoming Murray State to the Vadalabene Center Wednesday night. The Cougars and Racers tipoff at 7 p.m.