CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Seven players scored at least eight points Saturday night, and all nine SIUE players scored at least a point, as Cougar men's basketball came away with a convincing 83-68 road win over Austin Peay in Ohio Valley Conference play at the Dunn Center.
"Our guys played fantastic basketball on both ends," SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. "This was a great complete game."
With the win, the Cougars improved to 11-16 overall and 7-6 in OVC play. Both win totals establish new program highs for SIUE at the Division I level. SIUE currently is second in the OVC West Division and fifth in the overall OVC standings with three games remaining.
Austin Peay fell to 11-15 overall and 5-7 in the OVC.
Rozell Nunn and Donivine Stewart each scored 17 points in the win. Christian Salecich added 10 points, while Ray Lester, Kris Davis, and Keaton Jackson each scored nine points. Jackson finished with nine points, a team-high eight rebounds, and a game-high five blocks in 13 minutes despite battling the flu. Maurice Wiltz scored eight points in the win.
The Cougars combined to shoot 57.1 percent (28-49) from the field, while holding Austin Peay to just 41.2 percent (21-51). The Governors came into the game third in the OVC with a .489 shooting percentage.
"Guys were rotating on defense, being active, and coming up with steals," Forrester said. "Our defense gave us a good lift and we did some good things offensively when we were patient."
Following a slow start, and trailing 14-9 with 11:11 to play in the first half, the Cougars proceeded on a 14-4 run to lead 23-16 with 7:50 to go before the break. Jackson finished a layup after a handoff from Nunn with 2:48 left to give the Cougars their largest lead of the half at 33-23.
SIUE led 36-31 at halftime.
The Governors made their first two shots of the second half and tied the game 36-36 just 1:01 into the period. The Cougars pushed their lead out to six (44-38) on a three-pointer by Donivine Stewart with 16:11 left, but Austin Peay came back again. The Governors took their first lead of the half, 48-47, on a Chris Freeman basket with 11:59 to play.
The teams traded leads four times in the second half and were tied five times
Corey Arentsen knocked down a three from the right side with 10:48 to play to put Austin Peay on top 53-50. Jackson answered with a layup and a free throw to tie the score for the Cougars. It was 55-55 when Nunn's jumper put the Cougars ahead for good with 8:25 left.
Nunn pushed the Cougar lead to 70-60 with a three at the 3:57 mark. Austin Peay's Ed Dyson was fouled and hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to nine with 3:24 left before the Cougars sealed the victory.
SIUE connected on 9 of 10 free throw opportunities in the game's final 2:39 to close out the Governors. Davis had 8 of the Cougars' final 11 points.
For the game the Cougars hit 20 of 25 (80 percent) free throws. Austin Peay was 21 of 33 (63.6 percent) at the stripe.
"In the second half we made plays and down the stretch we made free throws," Forrester added. "This is a good win against a team that has great tradition. Coach Loos does a good job and he has good players."
Travis Betran led the Governors with 19 points. Dyson scored 14 and Zavion Williams scored 11. Chris Horton scored 10 points, led the way with 10 rebounds, and added four blocks.
SIUE continues its three-game road stretch with a 7 p.m. game Thursday at Tennessee State.
"We have to get that one too," Forrester said of Thursday's game. "We can't get complacent because we won tonight. We have to make sure we do the complete job."