Despite a rough loss against Jacksonville State University, men’s basketball will move on to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. SIUE went 1-1 over the weekend, going 97-72 with Jacksonville State University and 76-68 over Tennessee Tech.
Eastern Kentucky University’s 78-77 loss to Morehead State allowed the 6-12 in conference Cougars to clinch the eighth and final seed in the tournament bracket.
The Cougars had a strong start to the weekend with their win over Tennessee Tech. The first half left the teams tied 30-30 with the outcome looking like it could go in favor of either team.
SIUE outpaced the Golden Eagles in the second half to take the win, outscoring them 46-38 for the half. Junior forward Brandon Jackson and junior guard Tyresse Williford tied for most points of the game with 16 each. The game also landed senior guard David McFarland at 45th on the all-time top scorers list with a career 643 points as of Thursday.
Jackson’s 19-point game against JSU was still no match for the Gamecocks’ senior forward Jason Burnell, who scored 30 points alone for the OVC’s third-seeded team.
The matchup marked a disappointing final home game for the team’s three seniors on Senior Night: McFarland, guard Daniel Kinchen and guard Jaylen McCoy, as the team trailed by 30 points to a score of 50-20 at halftime and as many as 38 points at 12 minutes left in the second half.
A short burst of energy let SIUE close the gap a little to finish the game only behind by 25 points at 97-72 after a handful of late 3-pointers by McCoy, McFarland, Williford and Kinchen and the Gamecocks putting in their bench lineup with five minutes left in the second half.
Head Coach Jon Harris spoke highly of the Cougars’ opponents after the game.
“[The Gamecocks] are a legit team. They really are. I give them a lot of credit,” Head Coach Jon Harris said. “They’re a physical team, they’re athletic, they play hard. They made some shots. It might have been seven out of 15 for [3-point shots] in the first half. That’s probably a little uncharacteristic for them, honestly.”
After his final game in the Vadalabene Center, Kinchen commented on what he would take away from his time at SIUE.
“For my senior year I just wanted to be an example for my teammates, somebody they could come talk to,” Kinchen said.
McCoy added on his favorite memory from the season.
“Mine was [Kinchen’s] game-winner 3-pointer at Tennessee state,” McCoy said.
McCoy’s memory refers to a game earlier in February when Kinchen netted a 3-point shot with less than a second to go, clinching the team’s 85-84 victory over Tennessee State.
The Cougars were left in limbo after their game against JSU wrapped — with the loss, their qualification for the OVC tournament rested on the outcome of the game between EKU and Morehead State.
If EKU won, they would earn the eighth tournament seed for themselves, but if EKU lost, SIUE would have the better record and take the spot. Ultimately, the game ended in the Cougars’ favor Saturday night with EKU taking a crushing 1-point loss to Morehead.
The Cougars will face fifth-seed Morehead State at 6:30 p.m. on March 6 in Evansville, Indiana. The Cougars previously defeated Morehead this season 83-76.