EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Hot-shooting Jacksonville State started quickly and never let up in spoiling Senior Night for the SIUE men's basketball team Saturday at the Vadalabene Center. The Gamecocks built a 30-point halftime advantage and coasted to a 97-72 victory in an Ohio Valley Conference game.
SIUE dropped to 10-20 and closed at 6-12 in the conference, but will return to the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Cougars will likely be the eighth seed and play at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Evansville, Indiana.
Jacksonville State, sweeping the series from SIUE this season, improved to 23-8 overall and finished 15-3 in the OVC.
"Jacksonville State is a legit team and very physical with some good athletes," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "They also made a lot of shots and that's a little uncharacteristic of them."
The Gamecocks hit 39 of 71 field-goal tries (54.9 percent) and connected on 14 of 30 from three-point land. Those 14 threes are a season-best total. Jason Burnell's 30 points and 13 rebounds ignited Jacksonville State, which outrebounded SIUE 45-27.
Nevertheless, the Cougars regrouped and made a charge at the Gamecocks in the second half. Harris liked what he saw in their resilient approach.
"We stayed with it, stayed the course and consistently battled them," Harris said. "I told the team afterward that I liked their mindset because they finished the game the right way. We've really grown this season."
Brandon Jackson's 19 points powered the Cougars and he continued his late-season scoring spree. Jackson tallied 79 points in SIUE's last four games.
David McFarland (17 points), Tyresse Williford (12 points), Daniel Kinchen (11 points) and Jaylen McCoy (five points) also made vital contributions. McFarland, Kinchen and McCoy are the three seniors on the squad.
"David has grown so much both on and off the court," Harris said. "And in terms of his confidence, it's through the roof."
Kinchen and McCoy also have made the most of their SIUE careers.
"It as a great experience to play here and I wanted to be an example for my teammates," Kinchen said.
McCoy added, "My teammates helped me in a lot of ways and this year was a way for us to build a lot of character for when we leave here and go into the real world."
Harris pointed out, "I hope that all of these guys will be successful after basketball stops. Basketball is about so many things and something you learn from it is to fight adversity every day."
SIUE hit 23 of 60 shots, and made 10 of 22 treys, equaling their most made three-pointers this season. The Cougars also converted 16 of 21 free throws.
Jacksonville State grabbed its early lead on the strength of strong shooting and rugged rebounding. The Gamecocks' Burnell, a 6-foot, 7-inch senior forward, did ample damage in scoring first-half 21 points and snaring eight rebounds. He made 9 of 11 shots and was 2-for-2 on three-pointers.
The Gamecocks made 21 of 36 first-half shots, including 7 of 15 treys. They also outrebounded the Cougars 25-14. SIUE made only 7 of 30 field-goal attempts and 1 of 6 shots from shots from three-point range.
SIUE led 5-4 early on, but Jacksonville State went on a 14-0 run and never looked back. The Gamecocks led by as much as 20 points midway through the first half and then by 30 at the break. The Cougars got no closer than 23 points in the second half.