EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE came up one shot shy and one point short in its narrow loss to UT Martin on Saturday afternoon at the Vadalabene Center.
The Skyhawks fended off the Cougars 70-69 in an Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball and improved to 7-14 overall, including 2-6 in the OVC. SIUE dropped to 7-12 overall and 3-5 in the conference.
"No doubt, it's a tough way to lose," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said of the one-point decision. "We are understanding what it takes to win, but we aren't quite there yet.
Daniel Kinchen's shot just before the buzzer wouldn't go in and the Skyhawks escaped win their win.
"UT Martin came out with tremendous energy," Harris said. "We hit 10 3-pointers in the first half, so it was unreal that we were only up by three points at half. But they were shooting a lot of layups."
SIUE led 45-42 in a free-wheeling first half that featured 31 field goals, 14 of them from 3-point range. The Cougars and Skyhawks combined for 31-for-55 shooting overall. SIUE owned its largest lead at 37-29 with 4:50 remaining in the half.
"You can't anticipate shooting like that in the second half," Harris said.
Jalen Henry and David McFarland tried to give the Cougars a shot of energy. Henry scored a team-high 21 points and collected five rebounds and four assists. McFarland, coming off a 22-point game Thursday against Southeast Missouri, punched in 18 points, 15 on five first-half 3-pointers.
"David is doing some good things and growing on the defensive end," Harris said. "Jalen bounced back from Thursday's game, but we still need more from him."
The Cougars and Skyhawks were tied 10 times, seven in the second half. And the lead changed hands a dozen times in the see-saw contest.
SIUE's defense held UT Martin scoreless for nearly 5:30 after the Skyhawks had forged in front 66-62 with 7:54 to go. Yet the Cougars could only muster five points in that stretch before the visitors regained the lead with 2:29 remaining.
Henry's rebound basket gave SIUE a 69-68 advantage with 2:10 to play. Fatodd Lewis of UT Martin scored with 11.7 seconds remaining and the Skyhawks went on top for good. The Cougars played for the final shot and Kinchen couldn't connect.
"It's a process," Harris said. "We are playing better and are so much farther along this year. It sounds crazy, but sometimes it's easier to learn from losses than wins."
Delfincko Bogan's 21 points led UT Martin. Teammate Dominique Williams supplied 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Skyhawks outrebounded the Cougars 31-26. SIUE made 25 of 58 shots, including 11 of 27 from 3-point land. UT Martin hit 28 of 47 shots, including 4 of 13 from beyond the arc.
Next up is road work on the Cougars' agenda. They'll play Thursda at Tennessee State in Nashville in a 7:30 p.m. start. SIUE then takes on Belmont, also in Nashville, in a 5 p.m. game on Saturday, Jan. 27.
The Cougars then return home for four games, beginning with Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 1. A meeting with Jacksonville State (1 p.m. on Feb. 3) follows. The Jacksonville State game also will showcase SIUE celebrating 50 seasons of basketball and include a reunion for former players. The Cougars' first season of men's basketball was in 1967-68.