EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A torrid first-half surge carried the SIUE men's basketball team to a 79-66 win over Missouri S&T on Sunday at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars outscored the Miners 22-0 during an eight-minute stretch in the first half to build a 17-point lead and never look back. SIUE led 41-27 at half in improving to 4-8 and winning its second successive game. The Cougars are 3-3 at home. Missouri S&T, a member of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference, is 2-7.
"That big run was because of our defense," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We had 14 or 15 stops in a row and that made a big difference. Good defense allows you to get your transition game going."
The Cougars had a smooth enough transition game to extend their lead to as many as 22 points in the second half. They maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Missouri S&T sliced SIUE's advantage to 54-44 with 12:20 remaining, but Daniel Kinchen of the Cougars hit a 3-point shot and following a Miners' basket, he tacked on a 3-point play to make it 60-46.
"We had a lot of guys contribute and we had good balance," Harris said. "Our depth is good and so is our chemistry. Everybody is playing hard and working together."
Freshman Cameron Williams led a balanced attack with 16 points. The 6-foot, 2-inch freshman from St. Louis scored half of his points during that 22-0 flurry.
"Cameron's a very good player and he plays hard," Harris said. "I think his defensive play got him going. He has nicknamed himself 'Motor' for the way he plays."
Williams, who scored a season-high 22 points against Valparaiso on Nov. 22, added: "It was one of my better games. I was attacking the rim on offense. And our defense was getting a lot of stops."
Teammates Brandon Jackson and Tyresse Williford pitched in 13 points apiece and had six rebounds each. Williford also accumulated six assists. Christian Ellis collected 11 points and five rebounds. Ellis logged seven points during that first-half SIUE blitz.
"Christian is playing well and he's starting to turn the corner," Harris said. "He did some good things today."
Harris had no quarrel with the Cougars' shooting. They made 30 of 56 shots, or 54 percent. SIUE hit on 5 of 14 shots from 3-point land and sank 14 of 19 free throws. SIUE outrebounded Missouri S&T 37-34 and accounted for 16 assists.
"Sometimes these games right after Christmas can be hard to play," Harris said. "But we started the game with a good mindset and our defensive intensity was good."
Dulan Scott and Yahmir Muhammad both scored 14 points for the Miners, who made 25 of 67 shots. They hit on 6 of 20 treys and were 10 of 12 from the foul line.
Harris knows it will get tougher the rest of the way. The Cougars start their 18-game Ohio Valley Conference schedule on Thursday. SIUE welcomes Southeast Missouri at 7:30. The Cougars then play at Eastern Illinois in Charleston at 3 p.m. Saturday.
"Everybody is 0-0 in the OVC and I think the league is going to be as good as it has been in years," Harris said. "It seems like everybody has a lot of experienced players coming back."
He pointed out, "SEMO plays hard, so we know that to get into the top half of the league, you have to take care of business on your home court and try to steal some wins on the road."