EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE senior David McFarland scored a career-best 24 points Saturday, but that wasn't enough to slow down the surging SIU Carbondale Salukis.
The Salukis shot nearly 60 percent from the field to defeat the Cougars, 82-61, in front of 3,360 fans at the Vadalabene Center. SIUC, winning its third consecutive contest in the rivalry game between the sister schools, improved to 5-3 and SIUE fell to 1-5. The Salukis lead the series 10-1 and are 5-0 at SIUE.
"That's a good team and a veteran team," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said of the Salukis, who have won five of their last six games. "I thought our kids responded, but we came up a little short against them."
McFarland, a 6-foot, 4-inch senior guard from Edwards, Mississippi, made 9 of 19 shots, including 4 of 8 from 3-point land. He tallied 16 of his points in the second half, but the Cougars couldn't match the Salukis' overall shooting. SIUC connected on 31 of 52 shots, including 11 of 20 treys. They also converted 9 of 11 free throws.
"We shot the ball well. It was one of our better shooting days," SIUC coach Barry Hinson said.
Nobody shot it better for the Salukis than 6-5 senior guard Armon Fletcher, a graduate of nearby Edwardsville High. He amassed 24 points, thanks to 8-for-10 shooting and made all five of his 3-pointers. Fletcher also snared nine rebounds.
"It was fun and special for me," said Fletcher, who also surpassed the 1,000-career point mark and became the 46th SIUC player to do it. "I got some open shots and I hit them."
Harris noted, "He (Fletcher) is a worker and it's always good to see local kids having success."
Hinson pointed out, "Armon shot the ball extremely well and he can score. He's one of the best 3-pointers shooters I have coached."
McFarland tried to offset the Salukis' torrid shooting. He also made 2 of 3 free throws and collected six rebounds to go along with three assists and high scoring show. McFarland's previous top point output for SIUE was 22 against Southeast Missouri State last season.
"David is a very capable shooter and he can do a lot of things," Harris said. "He leads by example."
McFarland added, "It was one of my better games, but I can do better. I thought we did all we could, but we came out with a loss. Having all of those fans here today really gave us a boost."
Hinson was impressed with McFarland's performance. "He made a lot of contested 3-pointers. He played well and shot the ball well."
The Cougars made 23 of 61 shots, though they hit on only 5 of 20 threes. SIUE also converted 10 of 21 free throws and grabbed 32 rebounds, the same as the Salukis.
SIUE trailed 37-29 at half, then fell behind 57-37 with 12:55 remaining. However, the Cougars sliced the Salukis' lead to 68-58 with 3:03 to go. Yet they could get no closer.
"We cut into their lead, but when the game was in the balance, we weren't able to bump it down to where it needed to be," Harris said. "The game always comes down to a few possessions."
Harris went on, "I'm never happy with a loss because I think it was a game we could have won. The effort was there."
The Cougars play host to Harris-Stowe at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, then are idle until Monday, Dec. 17, when they face Drake of the Missouri Valley Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. SIUE is at Washington State on Dec. 19.
SIUC welcomes another rival, Saint Louis University, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.