EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE men's basketball had six players score in double figures, and reached 100 for the first time against a Division I opponent, defeating Central Arkansas 100-93 Saturday night in front of 1,535 at Vadalabene Center.
"I'm proud of our guys for the way they fought tonight," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "It's a good thing we were scoring because we had a tough time stopping them."
The Cougars improved to 1-0 with the victory, while Central Arkansas fell to 1-1. The win marks the first time under Forrester (1-19) that SIUE has been victorious when allowing 90 or more points. The 100 points are the most for SIUE since a 118-75 win over Division II Oakland City in February 2009.
Senior Tim Johnson led the Cougars with 21 points on an efficient 9 of 11 shooting. The 21 points were one shy of his career high, set last year at Central Arkansas. He added a team-high five rebounds as well. Donivine Stewart bested his SIUE career high with 15 points. Stewart was 3 for 7 from the field, but 8 for 10 from the free throw line. The sophomore point guard added five assists.
Christian Salecich scored an SIUE career best 13 points and turned in a game-high eight assists. Keaton Jackson scored 12 points to establish a new career high and tied Johnson with five rebounds. Michael Messer chipped in 11 points. Messer connected on 7 of 9 free throws. Rozell Nunn scored 10 points for the Cougars.
"Tonight showed how many different guys can score on our team, and we're going to need that on any given night," Forrester added. "It's good that we have guys that can score and we also got great leadership tonight. Guys made plays and they put each other in positions to be successful."
SIUE finished with 24 assists, the most since a February 2011 game against Hannibal-LaGrange. The Cougars connected on 30 of 37 (81.1 percent) free throw attempts. It is the first time SIUE has made 30 or more free throws in a game since March 2006.
"Down the stretch, I was happy to see our guys hit some free throws, and our guards didn't turn the ball over either," Forrester said. "They did a tremendous job taking care of the basketball, and that's something you need to have."
Central Arkansas had three players score 20 or more points in the losing effort. Jalen Jackson led the Bears with 23 points. He was 6 for 10 from the field, including three three pointers. He was 8 for 10 from the free throw line. DeShone McClure scored 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting. He was 4 of 7 from three point range. Oliver Wells added 21 points. Wells was 8 for 11 from the field, including three three-pointers. As a team Central Arkansas was 11 for 26 (42.3 percent) from three-point range. The Bears outrebounded SIUE 36-33.
SIUE hits the road for a four games in five days stretch. The Cougars will participate in the Portland State Tournament beginning Friday with UC Davis. SIUE also will face host Portland State and Loyola in the tournament.