EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - Mark Yelovich hit a fall-away jumper from the left baseline as time expired to lift the SIUE men's basketball team to a 64-62 win over Northern Illinois Saturday in the SEARS BracketBusters game.
SIUE improved to 8-16 with the win and finished the home season with a 7-6 record. NIU dropped to 3-22 with the loss.
With the game tied, 62-62 Kris Davis played the ball back to Jones on the left wing. Jones attempted an entry pass to Yelovich on the left side of the lane. The pass was deflected by NIU's Aksel Bolin. Yelovich fumbled then regained control before spinning to hit the 15-foot game-winner.
"He made a tough shot," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "We wanted the last shot. We didn't want to take an early shot and give them an opportunity to score."
Forrester admitted he had to resist the temptation of calling a timeout before Yelovich took the shot, saying he believed Yelovich could hit the shot.
"He proved me right," Forrester said. "I wanted to give him a chance to score. He's been very good at that spot. "
The Cougars led 62-60 with 27 seconds left when the Huskies' Aksel Bolin converted a layup to tie the game. Bolin was fouled but missed the free throw, the only missed free throw during the game for NIU. Jerome Jones grabbed the rebound off the miss and gave the ball to Davis, who started the Cougars up the floor.
Yelovcich led all players with a season-high 22 points. It is the fourth 20-point game of the year for the junior forward. Yelovich was 7 of 11 from the field including a three-pointer, the 100th of his career. He was 7 of 10 from the free throw line. Davis was the only other Cougar to score in double figures with 14 points. Davis was 3 for 4 from three-point range.
NIU used an 11-0 run in the second half to take a 17-11 lead with 11:37 to play in the first. The Huskies took a 10-point lead (34-24) into halftime.
SIUE then used an 18-6 run of its own to take a 42-40 lead with 10:27 left in the game. NIU battled back to take a 53-50 lead with a pair of free throws by Tyler Storm with 6:11 left. A jumper by Jones and a pair of free throws from Kevin Stineman made it 54-53 with 5:59 to play, and SIUE never trailed again in the game.
The win is just the third this year for SIUE, after trailing at the half.
The Cougars shot 52.2 percent (12-23) in the second half and 45.5 percent for the game. SIUE limited NIU to just nine field goals in the second half. The Huskies were 9 of 21 (42.9 percent) for the period.
Saturday marked the final home game for three seniors. Corey Wickware, David Boarden and Kevin Stineman each played their final games at the Vadalabene Center in a Cougar uniform. All three started the game. Wickware scored seven points, including a pair of three-pointers to give him 100 for his career. He is one of just nine players in school history to have 100 three-pointers for his career. Boarden finished with two points while Stineman scored five points and grabbed two rebounds.
The Cougars will wrap up the season with three road games, starting with next Thursday at Eastern Kentucky.
Forrester believes the program is heading in the right direction.
"I think our program is making steps," Forrester said. "The majority of our guys are back. We really haven't had that the last four years, where we have a lot of guys coming back who can contribute."