EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE made its lone preseason men's basketball game a successful one Friday as the Cougars defeated Kentucky State, 80-61, at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars led from start to finish and had four players score in double figures against Division II Kentucky State, a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"The guys worked together on both sides on the floor and we did some really good things," fourth-year SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "This team has great depth and great balance and I liked the way we shared the ball."
Jackson, a 6-foot, 7-inch junior forward from East St. Louis, Ill., scored a team-best 17 points. Williford, a 5-10 junior guard from Chicago, contributed 16 points. Uzuegbunem, a 6-7 junior from Oklahoma City, Okla., collected 11 points and 10 rebounds. And Williams, a 6-2 freshman from St. Louis, tallied 16 points including 13 in the second half.
SIUE started four juniors and a freshman.
"We have good leadership and Brandon and Tyresse really did some good things," Harris said. "Anselm is a load and Cameron settled down and came into his own during the second half."
Jackson, who snared six rebounds, noted: "We definitely have good chemistry on this team and we are working toward our goal."
Williford, a JUCO transfer, pointed out: "I felt comfortable and it was definitely a lot of fun. I want to be good leader on a good team."
Guard Christian Ellis added seven assists and five rebounds for the Cougars, who broke the game open midway through the first half.
SIUE used a 13-0 spurt midway through the first half to shoot ahead 31-18 and widen its lead to 40-25 at half. Williford scored 13 first-half points and Jackson chipped in with 12 more.
The Cougars open their season at home Tuesday when they welcome the University of Pacific (Stockton, Calif.) in a 7 p.m. game at the Vadalabene Center. Pacific, a member of the West Coast Conference, went 14-18 last season. The Cougars also entertain Winthrop (Rock Hill, S.C.) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Five of the first seven SIUE games are at home, including a rivalry battle with SIUC at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1.
"We're excited about the early-season schedule with that many homes games and we want to use it to our advantage," Harris said. "We will face two really good teams next week in Pacific and Winthrop."
Kevin Hayes scored 19 points to pace Kentucky State, which opens its season Nov. 10 at Kentucky Wesleyan. The Thorobreds finished 8-18 last season, including 7-12 in the SIAC. Kentucky State captured NAIA championships in 1970, 1971 and 1972.