MURRAY, Ky. – Murray State used a 13-2 run over the final 3:33 seconds of the first half Thursday to build an 11-pont halftime lead and held on for an 82-72 win over SIUE in Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball at the CFSB Center.
The loss drops SIUE to 6-6 in OVC play and 10-16 overall. The Cougars remain second in the West Division, four games behind the Racers, who improved to 15-9 overall and 10-2 in the OVC.
"There was a segment there in the first half where we dug ourselves a hole," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "We weren't attacking like we were when we started out the game."
Fueled by a trio of three-pointers, SIUE opened up a 14-6 lead over the game's first 15:29. Murray State went on an 11-0 run to lead by 3 (17-14) after a Jeffery Moss jumper with 12:29 to play. Christian Salecich hit a three-pointer with 9:02 left in the half to push the Cougars in front 22-21 with 9:05 left before halftime. The teams then traded leads several times. A Kris Davis layup with 3:48 left tied the game for the fifth time, 35-35, before the Racers went on their final run of the period.
"We allowed too many points in the paint in the first half," Forrester added. "We weren't getting back in transition.
Murray State led 46-35 at the break. The Racers connected on a remarkable 75 percent of their shots (21-28) during the first half and scored 32 of their 46 first half points in the paint.
"We would make a basket and we weren't sprinting back and they would hit the wide open shot," Forrester added. "Those things can't happen against a good team like Murray State."
The Cougars outscored Murray State 37-36 overall in the second half, but never were any closer than nine points. The Racers largest lead of the night was 17 points when a T.J. Sapp layup made it 66-49.
Wiltz led SIUE with 13 points, including three three-pointers. Donivine Stewart scored 11 points. Davis and Rozell Nunn each scored 10 points. Salecich and Jackson each scored nine points in the loss. The Cougars combined to shoot 48.2 percent (27-56) from the field.
Murray State was 32 of 58 from the field (55.2 percent) for the game, but was just 3 of 14 from three-point range.
"We defended the perimeter well, as far as not giving up too many threes against a good three-point shooting team," Forrester added.
Four players scored in double figures for Murray State. Jarvis Williams led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Cameron Payne scored 17 points. Moss scored 15 points and Sapp added 14.
SIUE continues a three-game road stretch with a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday at Austin Peay.
"We need to bounce back and try and get (Saturday's game)," Forrester said. "We need to go back to the things we were doing well to have success."