EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – For the fifth time this season, SIUE had to work extra time Saturday night, and the Cougars didn't mind doing it.
They outlasted Eastern Kentucky 88-82 in a double overtime thriller at the Vadalabene Center. SIUE, which has won three of its last four games, improved to 8-14 overall and 4-6 in the OVC. Eastern Kentucky dropped to 10-13 and 3-7.
"It was a huge win and we just persevered," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "I can't say enough about these guys. They have been so strong and consistent with their approach to what we are doing."
Tyresse Willford scored 27 points to power the Cougars, while Brandon Jackson contributed 25 points. David McFarland added 17 points, including a three-pointer to knot the score at 69-69 with 9.4 seconds remaining in regulation. It was tied 78-78 after the first overtime before the Cougars outscored the Colonels 10-4 in the decisive five-minute second OT.
"It was an important win because we hit the road next week for two games," said Williford, who was 10-for-14 at the foul line. It marked the fifth time this season he made at least 10 free throws in the game.
Williford added, "Basically it was a 'must' win for us and it will help us get some momentum going. I think this win was sweeter than our other overtime win."
The Cougars played their fifth overtime game of the season and won their second in row. The first three were single OT contests prior to SIUE winning a triple overtime affair at Southeast Missouri.
"It was a big weekend for us and we have some momentum going," Harris said.
SIUE posted its first sweep of the OVC season after defeating Morehead State 83-76 on Thursday.
The Cougars survived Nick Mayo's 33 points for Eastern Kentucky and seeing the Colonels erase a 36-20 first-half deficit. SIUE led 37-22 at the break. Mayo fouled out in the second overtime.
"We played high-level defense in the first half and executed our game plan," Harris said. "Our confidence continues to grow and we need to keep doing what we are supposed to do."
He said that McFarland's three-pointer from the corner that tied the game before the end of regulation was a designed play.
"We did a good job of executing that play," Harris said. "Then when Nick Mayo fouled out, that changed the course of the game."
McFarland also sank two free throws with 33.4 seconds remaining in the first overtime to knot things at 78. In the second OT, he made a pair of foul shots with 17.1 seconds to go in giving the Cougars a six-point advantage. Christian Ellis, who collected 11 rebounds, six assists and six points, sank a pivotal basket with 33.2 left in the second overtime to push SIUE's lead to 86-82.
"He came through big for us tonight," Harris added.
Eze said, "We stayed disciplined when we needed to do it and that's why we won."
Jackson had three dunks in making 10 of 16 shots. The Cougars made 26 of 67 field-goal attempts, were 4 of 22 from three-point range and converted 28 of 44 free throws. They outrebounded Eastern Kentucky 57-43.
"I got into some open spots and was able to hit my shots," Jackson said.
The Cougars travel to Austin Peay on Thursday and then play next Saturday, Feb, 9 at Murray State.