MOREHEAD, Ky. - Despite shooting 59 percent from the floor in the second half, SIUE couldn't overtake Morehead State, falling 76-61 Saturday night in the Ohio Valley Conference finale for both teams.
SIUE dropped to 9-17 with the loss, and finished its inaugural OVC season with a 6-10 record, good for a ninth-place finish. Morehead State finished its regular season 17-14 and 10-6 in the OVC, securing the third-seed and a first-round bye in the OVC Tournament which begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.
"I'm looking at it as a stepping stone where we took six steps forward," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said of his team's finish in the conference. "Hopefully, with so many guys coming back, we can put things together next season."
The Cougars connected on 13 of their 22 shots in the second period. SIUE shot 47.6 percent (20-42) for the game.
"We started to play better in the second half, especially with Mark (Yelovich) in the game," Forrester added. "We didn't get stops though and kept turning the ball over, which hurt us."
Mark Yelovich scored all 18 of his points in the second half to lead the way for the Cougars. Yelovich, who was limited in the first half because of foul trouble, was 6 of 9 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the free throw line. The junior moved into fourth place on SIUE's all-time scoring list and now has 1,191 point for his career.
"Mark was scoring where we wanted him to score inside the zone (defense)," Forrester said. "When he gets going, he's tough to guard."
Morehead State's stifling press led to a season-high 22 turnovers for the Cougars, including 15 in the first half. The Eagles' pressure kept SIUE off the scoreboard for the game's first 8:04, when Derian Shaffer hit a jumper from the right block to make it 6-2. MSU led 31-22 at the half.
"We did a terrible job of taking care of the basketball," Forrester said. "We didn't play with any poise and they took us out of our offense. It's hard to win on the road, especially against a good team, when you don't take care of the ball."
The Cougars cut the Morehead State lead to eight three separate times in the second half, the last time on a jumper from Davis with 8:31 remaining that made it 47-39.
Drew Kelly led the Eagles with a game-high 21 points. Kelly was 5 of 8 from the field and 11 of 14 at the free throw line. Kelly also pulled down six rebounds to pace the Eagles. Milton Chavis was the only Eagle to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
SIUE finishes the season Wednesday with a 7 p.m. game at Chicago State.