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Cougars Ace First Road Test in OVC

MARTIN, Tenn. - SIUE earned a win in its first Ohio Valley Conference road game Saturday, defeating UT Martin 69-65 in men's basketball at the Elam Center.

"I applaud our guys' effort tonight," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "They executed the game plan defensively. We did a good job in our zone defense."

The win is the first true road victory for the Cougars since a 91-76 win at North Dakota Feb. 18, 2010.

"It was a total team effort tonight," Forrester added. "We still have some things we need to improve on, but we were able to get a road win tonight and that is big."

SIUE, now 5-8 overall and 3-1 in the OVC, got off to a good start and led the majority of the way. Following two lead changes and three ties in the first three minutes, Corey Wickware hit a jumper, got fouled, and then hit his free throw, to put the Cougars up for good with 15:32 to play. Wickware made it 9-6 Cougars at the 15:00 mark. SIUE built its lead to 11 on a Wickware three-pointer that made it 33-22 with 4:10 to play. The Cougar senior finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

"Corey made some good decisions tonight," Forrester said. "His teammates were also a big part of what he was able to do offensively."

The Skyhawks, now 3-15 and 0-5 in the OVC, used a 9-2 run to cut SIUE's lead to 35-31 at the break.

The Cougars exploded out of the gates in the second half, opening the period on a 15-2 charge to earn their largest lead of the game at 50-33, but UT Martin wasn't finished.

The Skyhawks used a 13-2 run to cut into SIUE's advantage. It was a 10-0 stretch by UT Martin that made it 50-43, before a pair of free throws from Mark Yelovich pushed the Cougars' lead back to 52-43. UT Martin's Mike Liabo made it 52-46 with a three-point basket from the right wing.

Wickware pushed the Cougars lead back to eight at 54-46 to end a 4:54 SIUE field goal drought. Yelovich then scored five straight points, on a three-pointer and baseline jumper, and Derian Shaffer added a free throw to make to make it 60-46 with 8:23 to play.

"We can't get complacent. I thought we did a little bit in the second half." Forrester said. "We have to stay hungry and be tough mentally."

Yelovich was a rebound shy of the double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The junior forward now has 977 career points and sits 15th on SIUE's all-time scoring list.

Liabo led the Skyhawks with a game-high 26 points. Corderio Maclin added 13 while Myles Taylor and Troy King each scored 10.

UT Martin outrebounded SIUE 35-33. The Cougars shot 48.2 percent (27-56) from the field for the game. UT Martin was 26-60 (43.3 percent) from the floor.

SIUE remains on the road for two more games, before playing another home game. The Cougars take on Southeast Missouri Thursday night in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

"This is a great win for us," Forrester said. "We need to keep it going with two tough road games coming up."

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