Morehead State eliminated SIUE from the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a score of 72-68.
Former SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said the team’s start set the tone of the game.
“On the offensive end, I think our start cost us,” Harris said. “We were making baskets, but we had 10 turnovers in the first half, which allowed Morehead that 13-point lead.”
Down 13 points at halftime, SIUE came back in the second half to close the gap on the Eagles’ lead. Freshman guard Cameron Williams tied the score at 50 with a pair of free throws. Williams scored 11 points.
Harris said the team closed the gap by having better control of the ball.
“We took better care of the basketball. Our ball control was better, our ball movement was better and we were taking better shots [in the second half],” Harris said. “Our turnovers led to transition baskets for [Morehead State] in the first half, and in the second half they didn’t have that production.”
Junior forward Brandon Jackson made a layup and gave SIUE their only second-half lead at 56-55 before the Eagles pulled forward.
Jackson led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds and came out as the top scorer of the season.
“[Jackson] was great. Really the last month of the season he only had one or two games where he was not in double figures, so he really came on as a big part of what we did down the stretch,” Harris said.
Jackson said the team did well, but the outcome came down to the last moments of the game.
“We did well, but we did better in the second half, and it just really came down to the end of the game with a couple of defensive errors that cost us the game,” Jackson said.
Jackson said his goal returning as a senior for the 2019-20 season is to come out and win.
“My expectation is to win and get back to the tournament and possibly win the tournament,” Jackson said. “I’m going to take a short break, but I’ll be back and getting prepared for next season.”
Senior guard Jaylen McCoy finished with a season-high 14 points.
“It’s bittersweet because I put so much work in during the season, and you do it your whole life to play the game that you love,” McCoy said. “My time here at SIUE was very memorable, and I cherish these moments. My teammates, Coach Harris and the coaching staff helped me grow into a better man, and I’m just thankful for the opportunity that it gave me.”
Williams, Jackson and McCoy finished in double figures for SIUE.
“Cameron Williams had a really strong second half, and Jaylen McCoy was really consistent throughout the game keeping shots to keep us close, but we are kind of a team that wins by committee. We didn’t have one guy that we really rely on. We have a handful of guys that really contribute,” Harris said.
After shooting 32 percent in the first half, the Cougars rebounded to shoot 56 percent in the second half and finished at 45 percent for the game.
Two other seniors, guard David McFarland, who scored 8 points, and guard Daniel Kinchen, who scored 9 points, played their final games for SIUE this season.
SIUE’s season finished at 10-21 overall. Morehead went on to lose against Austin Peay 95-81 the next day.
SIUE Athletics recently announced their intention not to renew Harris’ contract after four years with the team and a 31-88 (.261) overall record. Brian Barone, a former assistant coach for SIUE, was promoted to interim head coach.
The Alestle will update this story as it develops.