CHARLESTON, Ill. – SIUE men's basketball suffered an 84-81 overtime setback Saturday on the road at Eastern Illinois.
The Cougars dropped to 5-9 overall and 1-1 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Eastern Illinois improved to 9-6 overall and 2-0 in OVC play. Both of EIU's OVC wins have come in overtime.
"That's a heart-breaker," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "Guys battled start to finish and did some good things. We'll talk it up and then it's on to the next one."
After going to overtime tied at 66, Eastern Illinois quickly pushed the lead to five at 73-68 less than a minute into the period following two made free throws by Rade Kukobat. EIU extended its lead to 81-74 before the Cougars closed the gap with free throws. SIUE buried all 13 free throw attempts in extra time, including three from Tyresse Willford with seven seconds to play which cut the EIU advantage to two at 83-81.
Mack Smith sealed the Panthers' win with a free throw two seconds later.
SIUE led nearly the entire first half and took a 37-30 lead into the break. The Cougars extended the lead to 39-30 (their largest lead) just after halftime on a Brandon Jackson jumper.
Eastern Illinois took its first lead of the period with 11:41 to play thanks to a three-pointer by Kukobat that made it 48-47. The Panthers led by as many as six in the second half of regulation.
"They got the hustle plays," Harris said of Eastern Illinois. "They got all of them. We did a better job in the second half on transition defense, but they made the hustle plays and they won the game."
EIU outrebounded SIUE 47-42 and turned 19 offensive rebounds into 16 second chance points.
"Every possession matters," Harris added. "That's the most important thing. We gave up 19 offensive rebounds and that's the difference in the game. There is no other stat that matters."
Josiah Wallace scored 24 points to lead Eastern Illinois. Shareef Smith scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
SIUE continues in OVC play with a Thursday-Saturday trip to Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State.
"We have to regroup," Harris said. "We have to take care of our bodies, come back Monday with the right mentality and be ready to work."