FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A strong second half wasn't enough to lift SIUE men's basketball in 2013-14 season opener, as the Cougars fell 99-65 on the road at Arkansas.
SIUE (0-1) fell to 0-6 in season openers at the Division I level, while Arkansas (1-0) won its 19th consecutive season opener.
The Cougars connected on 45.7 percent (16-35) of their shots in the second half, after making just 9 of 29 attempts in the first 20 minutes. After trailing by 29 points (56-27) at halftime, Arkansas outscored SIUE just 43-38 in the second half.
"The second half was much better, but at the same time we had dug ourselves such a deep hole," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "At halftime I told them, 'we want to improve in the second half.' I thought they did a better job in the second 20 minutes."
Both teams appeared uneasy to start the contest. Arkansas' Bobby Portis scored the first points of the game more than two minutes into the contest with a tip in to put the Razorbacks up 2-0. Arkansas extended the start to 7-0 before Kris Davis and Donivine Stewart hit back-to-back three-point baskets that made it 7-6 Arkansas and spark a 10-0 run by the visitors.
Stewart and Wiltz scored nine points apiece for the Cougars. All nine of Wiltz's points came from behind the three-point line.
Tim Johnson rolled home a layup with 14:57 to play to put the Cougars up 8-6. Just 30 seconds later, Ray Lester pulled down an offensive rebound after a miss by Wiltz. His put back-shot made it 10-7 SIUE.
The Razorbacks responded with a 10-0 run of their own to lead 17-10 with 12:14 left in the half. Arkansas never trailed again.
The Cougars turned the ball over 14 times during the first half, accounting for 20 Arkansas points. SIUE finished with 23 turnovers for the game.
"We did a poor job taking care of the basketball," Forrester said. "That's one of things we were stressing on all week long in practice. We knew we were going up against the press."
Sparked by a pair of three-pointers from Tim Johnson the Cougars started the second half with a 15-8 run to trim the lead to 64-42. Johnson scored nine of his team-high 13 points in the second half.
Again the Razorbacks responded, this time with their own 15-8 run to make it 79-50 with 7:43 to play in the game.
For the game, Arkansas outrebounded SIUE 42-34. The Razorbacks hauled in 16 offensive boards.
"We just lost our poise," Forrester said. "We gave them a lot of points off offensive boards and from them pressing us."
Anthlon Bell scored 18 points to pace five Arkansas players in double figures. Bell was 6 for 9 from the field, including 5 for 6 from three-point range Michael Qualls added 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the field. Alandise Harris chipped in 15 points.
"Our defense still has to get way better," Forrester added. "We gave up too many easy buckets from them driving the lane or crashing the offensive boards."
SIUE returns home for a two-game home stand. The Cougars welcome Saint Louis to the Vadalabene Center for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday night. It is the first visit to Edwardsville by the Billikens.
"Saint Louis is a very disciplined team that plays very hard," Forrester said. "They execute both offensively and defensively and it's going to be a huge challenge."