EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE overcame a 16-point deficit to post one of its most meaningful men's basketball wins of the season Thursday night at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars erupted for an explosive 51-point second half to overtake Morehead State 83-76 in Ohio Valley Conference play and improve to 7-14 overall. SIUE lifted its record to 3-6 in the league. Morehead State dropped to 8-15 and 4-5.
"I think it was a great win and we found a way to rally around each other, especially on the defensive end," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We got some stops when we really needed to get them. It's all part of the process and the chemistry is so strong on this team."
Tyresse Williford's 23 points, including 16 in the second half, spurred the Cougars, who recorded their biggest comeback of the season. Williford served as a catalyst in the big second half when SIUE made 17 of 26 shots. He also sank four free throws in the final 18.9 seconds to put the finishing touches on the win.
"We came together at halftime," said Williford, pointing to Morehead State's 40-32 lead at the break. "The first half wasn't our best or worst one of the season, but in the second half, we started getting defensive stops and controlled the pace of the game."
Harris added, "The second half was one of our better halves of the season."
Morehead State led 34-18 with 6:30 remaining in the first half before the Cougars rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They used an 11-0 run to get back into the game and trailed 40-32 at halftime.
And SIUE was far from finished. Reserve Jaylen McCoy sparked them in the second half with an eight-point flurry in 2.5 minutes and the Cougars caught the Eagles at 53-53 with 12:36 remaining.
"Jaylen did some great things," Harris said. "He's a great team guy and he continues to respond."
David McFarland tallied 18 points, including 13 in the second half, while Brandon Jackson punched in 13 points. The Cougars made 30 of 54 shots, 8 of 21 from three-point range and 15 of 21 foul shots. They also outrebounded Morehead State 37-28 and committed only four second-half turnovers, and 14 in all.
Jordan Walker's 22 points led Morehead State, which made 22 of 55 shots, 9 of 23 treys and converted 23 of 27 free throws. Yet once SIUE forged ahead 64-63 on a McFarland free throw with 7:19 remaining, the Eagles couldn't catch the Cougars. They hiked their lead to 72-63 with 4:26 to play and made their free throws to secure the win.
"I thought we executed our game from start to finish against a good Morehead State team," Harris said. "Why we got into trouble early in the game was because we took some questionable shots and had four or five unforced turnovers."
The Cougars , halfway through their OVC schedule, remain at home Saturday against OVC foe Eastern Kentucky. It's a 7 p.m start on Community Day. Then the Cougars travel to Austin Peay (Feb. 7) and Murray State (Feb. 9) prior to welcoming Eastern Illinois (Feb. 14) and UT Martin (Feb. 16).