EVANSVILLE, Ind. – SIUE men's basketball's season came to an end Wednesday night with a 60-51 loss to Tennessee Tech in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at the Ford Center.
SIUE finished the year at 9-21 overall. Tennessee Tech improved to 19-13 and advances to play fourth-seeded Jacksonville State Thursday night.
"It was a frustrating performance tonight," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We gave up too many shots around the rim in the first half and that was the difference."
In similar fashion to recent contests, the Cougars lead early. SIUE went up by five points on several occasions, the last time being on a Justin Benton three-pointer with 4:39 to play before halftime when the Cougars led 22-17.
Tennessee Tech took the lead for good on a Mason Ramsey layup with 1:49 to play in the half. The Golden Eagles led 29-24 at halftime.
The Cougars never led in the second period. SIUE cut the lead to three points early in the half on a Jalen Henry jumper.
Henry led SIUE with 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in his final game in a Cougar uniform. The native of Springfield, Illinois, finished his career with 1,059 points to hold the No. 11 spot in scoring. His 15 rebounds gave him 511 for his career. He is one of only five players to finish his career with more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
"He finished his career with a double-double and I think that is very fitting," Harris said. "Between him and Keenan (Simmons), the growth they have made between our first season and now is remarkable. I am forever indebted to both of those guys for welcoming me at 34 years old and really buying in to my vision."
"When he got here, I put all my faith in him," Henry said. "I owe my success and how I have grown as a player to him. I couldn't have done this without him."
Simmons finished the night with six points and seven rebounds. The Michigan City, Indiana, product ended his career with 521 rebounds, which ranks him No. 10 all-time at SIUE.
SIUE hit just 30.3 percent (20-66) of its shots. The Cougars were 3-25 from long range.
"We got a little stagnant on offense and I credit their defense, but it's something for us to learn from," Harris said. "We struggled to get plays on the perimeter. Every time we drove there was a body there and we couldn't finish at the level we needed to."
The Cougars outrebound Tennessee Tech 49-41. The 49 rebounds were a season-high and an all-time program high against a Division I opponent.
Ramsey led Tennessee Tech with 19 points. He scored 17 in the first half. Kajon Mack added a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Harris noted that while the season didn't go exactly as he would have like, forward progress was made.
"We did some really good things this season," he said. "I am proud of our guys for staying with it and making the progress we made."