NASHVILLE, Ill. – A strong offensive performance didn't translate into a win for SIUE Saturday. The Cougars fell on the road at first-place Belmont 97-75.
The Cougars connected on 52.7 percent (29-55) of their shots including going 7-17 (41.2 percent) from three-point range. SIUE was 10-13 at the free throw line as well, but none of it was enough to overcome the Bruins who retained at least a share of first place in the Ohio Valley Conference. Belmont is now 14-2 in the OVC and 23-4 overall. SIUE dropped to 9-19 overall and 5-11 in the OVC.
"Those are good offensive numbers," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We shot 57 percent in the first half and almost 70 percent from three (6-9, 66.7 percent) at half and we were still down nine."
Down 20-17 with 11:58 to play, SIUE scored 15 of the next 17 points in the game and led 32-22 following a Brandon Jackson three-pointer at the 9:08 mark.
Belmont battled within one before the Cougars pulled away by six following a pair of Daniel Kinchen free throws at 6:09. Dylan Windler and Grayson Murphy hit consecutive three-pointers for Belmont to tie the score at 39 with 4:38 left.
The Bruins finished the half on a 13-4 run to take a nine-point lead into the break.
"We were up 8-10 and we took a couple of questionable shots and had some turnovers," Harris said. "They had 11 points off of turnovers in the first half and that gave them their momentum and they built off of that."
The Bruins pushed the lead to double digits for the first time 1:31 into the second half and never led by less than that.
The Bruins hit 59.7 percent (37-62) of their shots and knocked down 11 of 27 three-point attempts. Belmont outrebounded SIUE 32-22.
"We gave up 10 on the backboards and had 15 turnovers and that's too many against a team like Belmont," Harris said.
The Bruins turned 15 turnovers into 22 points and outscored SIUE 50-32 on points in the paint.
Jackson scored 22 points to lead all scorers. It was the second consecutive game the Cougar junior scored 22. He was 9-15 from the field.
"Brandon is stepping up," Harris said. "His confidence is growing day by day. He is someone who has been consistent with his work and consistent with his effort and approach. He is really growing into a special player for us."
Kinchen added 13 points, 11 of which came in the first half. Jaylen McCoy scored 10.
Six Bruins finished in double figures led by Nick Muszynski's 19 points. The freshman big man scored 14 of his points under the basket, with the other five coming at the foul line. Dylan Windler scored 18 and finished with nine rebounds. Windler was 6-14 and knocked down three triples.
"They do a pretty good job of playing inside-out," Harris said of Belmont. "That's who they are."
Just one week remains in the regular season. SIUE will face Tennessee Tech Thursday and Jacksonville State Saturday at Vadalabene Center. The Cougars need to finish in the top eight in the OVC to qualify for the OVC Tournament.
"We'll have our hands full next week," Harris said. "We need to protect our home floor to go to Evansville."