EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Some sizzling shooting supplied plenty of punch as SIUE outscored Southeast Missouri, 94-88, in the Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball opener for both teams Thursday at the Vadalabene Center.
The free-wheeling shootout featured the most points SIUE has scored in an OVC game, covering eight seasons.
"We shot it well tonight. This is a good offensive team," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said of the Cougars. "We can have this kind of result when we trust each other. We moved the ball, trusted each other and had 19 assists."
Williams, a freshman, tallied a season-high 27 points and McFarland, a senior, contributed 22 points. SEMO dropped to 5-9 and had its four-game winning streak against the Cougars snapped.
All figured, the Cougars made 35 of 60 shots, or 58 percent. They also sank 10 of22 attempts from 3-point range and converted 14 of 16 free throws. The Redhawks connected on 30 of 58 shots, or 52 percent. They made 13 of 26 treys and hit on 15 of 18 free throws.
"That's a high-powered offense that SEMO has, but I think we really did a good job of guarding them in the half court," Harris said.
McFarland added, "I think the most important thing is our defense and how we play it. We have a chance to win if we play good defense."
The offense, however, courted the most attention since both teams combined to make 65 of 118 shots, including 23 of 48 from 3-point land. They also teamed up to sink 29 of 34 foul shots.
"It was fun playing in a game like this," said Williams. "We played good defense and that got our confidence up and helped us on offense."
Williams' confidence seemed to be brimming. He made 10 of 12 shots, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Williams also hit on all three of his free throws attempts. McFarland made 7 of 12 shots, including a trio of treys. He converted all five of his free throws.
"Our confidence is growing and it's paying off for us," Harris said. "Shooting is such a mental thing and we are better offensively when we guard well."
The Cougars made 18 of 32 shots the first half in building a 45-30 advantage. They led by as much as 20 points in the first half, but the Redhawks wouldn't buckle. SEMO got to within 66-62 midway through the second half, yet the Cougars wouldn't let the Redhawks get closer than four points. Still, it took a pair of free throws by McFarland with 6.9 seconds remaining to ensure the victory.
"It's a big-time win for us in starting the OVC season," McFarland said.
Harris noted, "I told the guys – welcome to the OVC. It's going to be like this every night and you have to learn to play in this game. Every game you see in the OVC is going to be close."
The Cougars head for Charleston on Saturday and a 3 p.m. game against Eastern Illinois.