EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Rozell Nunn gave SIUE the lead for good with 2:07 to play and followed with his fourth three-pointer of the night with 1:25 left as the Cougars edged Texas-Pan American 55-49 Tuesday in men's basketball at the Vadalabene Center.
"I was proud of our guys for finding a way to win tonight," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "The last three games we played where it came down the stretch, we didn't do a great job finishing the game off. Tonight we did a much better job of finishing and winning the game."
Christian Salecich's career-high 16 points and 15 total points from Nunn helped the Cougars win a game of runs, which featured seven lead changes and three ties.
Salecich capped his career night with a dunk to extend the Cougars' lead to six (52-46). He then sank a pair of free throws with eight seconds left for the final margin. Salecich scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime. Nunn was 5 for 5 from the field, including 4 for 4 from three-point range.
"We had some guys who made plays down the stretch for us to win tonight," Forrester added. "It wasn't pretty, but we're still learning as a team. Our team is growing, and we just have to keep fighting and keep grinding these wins out."
The Cougars (2-6) connected on just one of their first 11 shots Tuesday and found themselves trailing UTPA by 10 (15-5) with 7:54 to play before halftime.
SIUE finished the half on a 17-3 run to end the half, including holding the Broncs scoreless for the final 5:46 of the period. The Cougars held a 22-18 advantage at the break.
"Early in the game, we got back into it with our defense," Forrester said, "We got some stops and made some transition baskets, and that changed the momentum a little bit."
All told, the Cougars' run swelled to 34-8 covering 13:40 of game time and extended the lead to as many as 16 points early in the second half.
UTPA (4-6) wasn't finished. The Broncs used a 19-2 run to regain the lead at 42-41 with just 5:21 remaining. The two teams traded the lead five times before Nunn put the Cougars ahead for good.
The Broncs were led in scoring by Shaquille Boga, who scored a game-high 17 points. Javorn Farrell scored 15 and hauled in a game-high 12 rebounds.
Ray Lester finished with nine points for the Cougars, one shy of his career high. Keaton Jackson scored three points and grabbed a career-best nine rebounds. He added four blocked shots, marking the third time this year the junior transfer has finished with four blocks in a game.
SIUE remains home for a Saturday matchup with Central Michigan. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.