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Cougars Fight Back for Second Straight Win

Yemi Makanjuola
Yemi Makanjuola

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE men's basketball clawed back from a seven-point second-half deficit to earn a 74-64 win over Portland State Saturday at Vadalabene Center.

SIUE, which has won two straight, improved to 3-7 with the win. Portland State has dropped three consecutive games and is 3-5.

"That's a good team," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said of Portland State. "People talk about the West Coast style – they get up and down and average 81 (points per game). We found a way to hold them under their average. Once we slowed ourselves down on the offensive end, we were able to settle in. I thought our half-court defense was pretty good."

Following a steal from Jalen Henry, C.J. Carr dropped in a scoop shot to move the Cougars within one of Portland State at 60-59. Carr was fouled on the play, hit his free throw and the game was tied 60-60 with 7:22 to play. SIUE never trailed again. The Cougars scored 19 of the game's final 23 points. SIUE went 9 of 11 at the free throw line during the final stretch.

"(The team) continued to respond," Harris said.  "They are growing up right before our eyes. Three games in a row, we found a ways to put positive things together."

For the first time this season, SIUE won a game when trailing at halftime. Both teams used runs in the first period to build a lead. The Cougars held as much as a seven-point lead following a Henry free throw at the 9:24 mark. Portland State's Isaiah Pineiro scored with 55 seconds left in the half to put the Vikings up 36-28. SIUE trimmed the lead with four straight points, and PSU led 36-32 at halftime.

The Vikings held the advantage at the break thanks in large part to shooting 51.6 percent (16-31) from the floor over the game's first 20 minutes.

After connecting on 13 of 30 shots (43.3 percent) of their shots in the first half, the Cougars flipped the script after halftime. SIUE was 12 of 24 from the field, while limiting PSU to just 11 of 27 in the second half. For the game SIUE shot 25-54 (46.3 percent).

"The guys are gaining confidence," Harris added. "Sometimes you just have to see the ball go in the rim. We did that at Carbondale. We did that tonight, and the guys are really starting to lean on each other."

The Cougars outscored Portland State 42-28 in the second period. SIUE also took care of the basketball. Following seven turnovers in the first half, the Cougars had just one giveaway in the second half.

Portland State turned the ball over 18 times, and SIUE turned the miscues into 24 points.

Yemi Makanjuola scored a career-high 20 points to lead all scorers. The Cougars center finished a rebound shy of his first career double-double. Carr scored 14 points while pulling in five rebounds and adding five assists. Henry and Burak Eslik each scored nine points.

Collin Spickerman scored 15 points to lead the Vikings. Khari Holloway and De'Sean Parsons each scored 10 points. Cameron Forte, who came in averaging 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game, settled for nine points and seven rebounds while also committing six turnovers.

"The guys buckled down and stepped up to the challenge," Harris said of his team's defense.

SIUE takes a week off for finals and will return to the court Dec. 21 at Southern California. That game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

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