January has been a rough month for the men’s basketball team, with five losses so far — two last week.
Thursday night’s game against Austin Peay started quickly, with the Cougars’ junior forward Anselm Uzuegbunem netting a layup in the first minute of play. Next, Peay and SIUE battled it out for free throws, setting the score to 1-4 before the 18-minute mark.
Both teams traded layups and 3-pointers, finishing the first half at 38-35. The second half started slower, with both teams alternating scoring — keeping the match neck and neck.
Toward the end of the match, two fouls by SIUE saw Peay gain the edge they needed to steal the game. The second half ended after a missed 3-pointer and a team switch-up by Peay, finishing the game at 79-71. The Cougars’ strong start never guaranteed enough momentum to carry home a win Thursday.
A recent string of close losses has dented the team’s record this month, something they have to overcome, according to SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris.
“We practice consistently well — that’s why we’re able to perform. We just have to be a little bit better to get over that hump,” Harris said.
Peay’s sophomore guard and forward Terry Taylor was the top scorer Thursday with 33 total points and took the title for most total rebounds at 12.
Saturday night’s game against the Murray State Racers marked another tough match for the Cougars.
The Racers led the first few minutes of the game, beginning the match with an 11-9 lead at the 15-minute mark. Like Thursday’s match, the two teams kept close through the end of the first and beginning of the second half.
Like SIUE, Murray State stayed aggressive through the match.
According to junior guard Tyresse Williford, to the Cougars, it was just another match.
“Murray State’s a good team. So, we always want to compete with any team that comes in. When we get a good team like Murray State to come in, we just want to battle who they are,” Williford said.
Murray’s sophomore guard Ja Morant took home 40 of the team’s 82 points Saturday, the game high. With 33 seconds left in the final half, Morant’s two free-throws finalized Murray’s win over the Cougars.
“We were close to the bone and by putting pressure on the defense I was able to get to the freethrow line and knock free throws down,” Morant said.
Murray State’s Morant came home with a high-scoring game, though SIUE wasn’t without acclaim Saturday. The Cougars’ own junior guard Tyresse Williford set a new personal record for total scored points that night, banking a career-high of 33 against Murray State.
A switch-up in Murray’s defense during the last four minutes allowed them to pull away from a 69-68 near tie and finish the match with a 10-point lead.
“We went to our half-court press. We covered up a lot of space and we closed down some of those driving lanes that were really hurting us and we limited Edwardsville to one shot,” Murray State Head Coach Matt McMahon said.
Saturday’s game ended with Murray’s senior guard Shaq Buchanan taking home the top total rebounds at seven, with SIUE’s junior forward Brandon Jackson coming in at a close second with six total rebounds.
This month’s slump has dropped the Cougars’ season record to 5-13 with some close recent games. Their season continues Thursday against SEMO in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.