Despite senior guard David McFarland’s career-high 24 points against the Southern Illinois University Salukis, men’s basketball fell behind by 21 points to end the game 82-61 Saturday in the Vadalabene Center.
“[McFarland] is about a year and a half in and very capable and able to do a lot of different things for us. He leads by example ... He’s the kid that works, he comes in and shoots extra shots, he watches film and studies his game. His success is no surprise to us as a staff,” Head Coach Jon Harris said.
A season-high 3,360 fans filled seats in the VC, a rare sight in the arena that holds approximately 4,000, and the energy in the crowd was definitely high with fans excited to see the Cougars take on our SIU system rivals.
The Salukis have won 10 of 11 games played against the Cougars in this series and all five of those played in the VC.
“The fans always bring their big energy to us. It gives us a boost every day, every game,” McFarland said.
Despite a 12-12 tie with 13 minutes left in the first half, the Cougars were left behind by the Salukis’ high energy and 59.6 percent shooting accuracy.
Fans were left cheering at a few second-half stunning plays, even through to the end when it was clear the Cougars wouldn’t catch up to the Salukis.
For the first points of the second half, McFarland caught a long pass from junior guard Tyresse Williford in the air for an impressive dunk, and later on in the half McFarland caught his own miss and put it back in for another two points.
However, these few plays of energy and aggression for the Cougars didn’t last and the team slowed, trailing by 20 at 37-57 with 13 minutes left in the second half.
The Cougars were able to close the gap 58-68 with three minutes left in the game, but lost their energy and fell behind for the final 21-point loss.
Carbondale’s redshirt senior guard Armon Fletcher, who graduated from Edwardsville High School under SIUE’s current Assistant Coach Mike Waldo, tipped over the 1,000-point mark during Saturday’s game. He stole the show for the Salukis, with the 2018-19 season marking his fifth with the team.
“I started off the game over [by] two but the guys continued to tell me to keep shooting and don’t think about it. My coaches drew up plays for me to get open shots and my teammates found me,” Fletcher said.
SIUE took home a 37.7 percent shooting accuracy, the second-lowest for the Cougars’ six games this season so far and the third in the 30s, but it still shows a decent margin above the 30.3 percent the team posted at Western Illinois on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Though McFarland’s 24 points helped to keep the Cougars in the game, he still acknowledged the team has more to work on.
“Like coach said, it’s just details — learning on the opponent’s team who’s going to get off, cleaning up those details,” McFarland said.
Junior forward Brandon Jackson led the team in rebounds with seven, and junior guard Christian Ellis, Williford and McFarland all tied for the most assists with three each.
The 1-5 Cougars move on from the loss to host Harris-Stowe University at 2 p.m. Saturday in the VC.