EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Fifth-seeded Morehead State slipped past eighth-seeded SIUE 72-68 Wednesday in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, eliminating the Cougars.
SIUE's season finishes at 10-21 overall. Morehead State improved to 13-19 and will advance to face Austin Peay in the OVC quarterfinals.
"I hate it for our guys," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "I hate it for our seniors. That's a game we could have won.
"Give Morehead a lot of credit, they started the game well," Harris added. "We had 10 turnovers in the first half and that kind of set the tone. It is tough to be playing catch up in March."
Down 13 points (37-24) at halftime, SIUE went to work in the second half to cut the Eagles' lead. The Cougars cut the lead to five in the first three minutes of the half and down to three with 15:10 left. Cameron Williams tied the score at 50 with a pair of free throws.
A Brandon Jackson layup with 8:08 to play gave SIUE its first second-half lead at 56-55. It was the last lead the Cougars would have.
"(Morehead State) made some plays down the stretch," Harris said. "We had a couple of defensive breakdowns and we missed some shots around the rim. We had the right plays we just didn't convert them today."
After shooting 32 percent in the first half, the Cougars rebounded to shoot 56 percent in the second half and finished at 45 percent (27-60) for the game.
Jackson, Williams and Jaylen McCoy finished in double figures for SIUE. Jackson led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds.
"He finished strong tonight," Harris said of Jackson. "'Jack' should have some momentum going into the offseason. We expect some good things from him as a senior."
McCoy finished with a season-high 14 points. He was 4-7 from three-point range.
"I am happy for him," Harris said of McCoy. "He really came on the last month or so of the season. I give him a lot of credit. He stayed the course all the way through two years. He got better every day."
Williams scored 11 points.
"He had a good second half," Harris said. "He struggled early. He probably had some nerves which is natural, but he responded and had a good second half."
"Those guys have invested so much for the program," Harris said of his seniors. "They are high-level kids. They will be very successful when they leave here. They will leave with their degrees and have great success as they springboard off of what they did here."
The Eagles hit 49.1 percent of their shots from the field and were 7-19 from three-point range. Malek Green scored 23 points and added eight rebounds to lead Morehead State.