EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Saint Louis used a 34-11 run to close the first half Wednesday en route to an 82-58 victory over SIUE men's basketball in front of a sold out crowd 4,007 at Vadalabene Center.
SIUE (0-2) seemed to thrive on the atmosphere and the energy of the third largest crowd to see a game at SIUE. Tim Johnson blocked Saint Louis' Jordair Jett on the first shot attempt of the night and the Cougars hit their first two baskets; driving plays by Donivine Stewart and Michael Messer to go up 4-0.
"Our guys came out with some fight tonight," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "Part of that can be attributed to our fans and the crowd and the atmosphere."
"It fired us up. It was a great atmosphere," Stewart said. "It felt good to have the community come up and support us."
Stewart collected a steal and converted a layup to put SIUE ahead 6-5 with 15:38 to play before halftime.
The Billikens (2-0) led by four when Messer was fouled with 13:15 remaining in the half. The junior sank a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 12-10. Saint Louis' Mike McCall, Jr. and the Cougars' Rozell Nunn traded three-point baskets and it was 15-13 SLU with 11:56 remaining in the half before the Billikens began their run. A Grandy Glaze layup capped a 16-0 span by Saint Louis that made it 31-13 with 6:06 left in the half.
"They play great defense, but at the end of the day we need to be able to execute on offense," Stewart added.
Saint Louis shot 60 percent from the field in the first half, connecting on 18 of 30 attempts, while the Cougars finished the half with just eight field goals in 22 attempts (36.4 percent). Saint Louis took a 46-21 lead in the locker room at halftime.
"SLU is a good team," Forrester added. "They execute well both offensively and defensively. Saint Louis came at us, and we just didn't come back at them."
SIUE rebounded to shoot 42.4 percent (14-33) in the second half and outscored Saint Louis 37-36 over the final 20 minutes.
Stewart finished with 14 points to lead the Cougars. He was 5 of 11 from the field and 4 of 6 from the free throw line. Ray Lester was the only other Cougar in double figures, finishing with a career high 10 points.
Lester was 3 for 7 from the field but just 4 for 10 from the foul line. Forrester said it's a part of the game that the senior forward is working on.
"Ray was 4 for 10 (from the free thow line)," Forrester said. "But you know what? He was in the gym yesterday with me shooting free throws. I like when guys are working to improve upon their weaknesses."
Keaton Jackson added eight points, all coming in the second half and all coming by way of the dunk. The junior transfer also added five rebounds and a game-high four blocked shots.
Jett led all players with 16 points for the Billikens. McCall, Jr. and Dwayne Evans each chipped in 14 points, while Austin McBroom scored 10. Glaze finished with nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Billikens won the rebounding battle, outrebounding SIUE 37-28.
Forrester said he would like to see the series between the Billikens and SIUE continue.
"I would love to (play every year). I think it could end up being a great rivalry," he said. "Look at the atmosphere that we played in tonight. At SLU last year the crowd was great. So why not?"
Forrester also commented on playing against the man who recruited him as a player, Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews. Forrester also worked 10 seasons on Crews' staff while at Evansville.
"Once that ball is tipped you're just doing everything you can to put your players in a position to win a basketball game," Forrester said. "We have a great relationship. He's a genuine guy and a great teacher of life and basketball, and I'm happy to have a guy like that in my life."
SIUE remains home to take on Central Arkansas Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.