EDWARDSVILLE – Tennessee Tech fended off the Cougars 72-66 at the Vadalabene Center to send SIUE to 5-10 overall. Tennessee Tech improved to 5-11 in winning its conference debut.
"I think we did some pretty good things on both ends of the floor, but the difference in the game was our missed free throws," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said.
The Cougars made 22 of 37 fouls shots, while the Golden Eagles hit 17 of 22 free throws. SIUE's missed fouls shots hampered Cougar comebacks in the second game. SIUE never led the second half, though the Cougars got to within 58-57 with 6:07 remaining. Then Tennessee Tech went to work again and expanded its lead.
"They did some good things," Harris said of the Golden Eagles. "They kept us at arm's length and made some tough shots."
Jalen Henry did some good things for the Cougars. He scored a team-high 19 points, thanks mainly to 6-for-7 shooting from the field. Henry, a 6-foot, 8-inch junior from Springfield, also converted 7 of 12 free throws and snagged seven rebounds.
"Jalen is an aggressive player and he is playing at a high level of confidence," Harris said. "He has been consistent for us."
Carlos Anderson, a 6-4 sophomore from Alton, tallied 10 points. Reserve Josh White, a 6-1 senior from Edwardsville, pitched in eight points in four minutes. And Tre Harris, another Edwardsville High graduate and 6-5 redshirt sophomore, returned to the lineup and scored seven points.
"We have good depth and I like that," Harris said. "Josh has continued to push to improve and it's good to have Tre back on the floor."
Harris said the Cougars will keep striving for improvement now that they have begun their OVC competition. SIUE plays at Eastern Kentucky (Jan. 5) and Morehead State (Jan. 7) before welcoming Austin Peay (Jan. 12) and Murray State (Jan. 14).
"Any loss is tough, especially when you are playing at home," Harris said. "But we did some good things in this game, including getting fouled. And we had only eight turnovers, which is an improvement. One of our biggest struggles has been making too many turnovers."
SIUE made 20 of 44 shots, though the Cougars were 4 of 16 on 3-pointers. Tennessee Tech, led by Kajon Mack's 22 points and seven rebounds, hit 25 of 56 shots, including 5 of 17 from beyond the arc.