EDWARDSVILLE – A furious second-half rally wasn't quite enough to propel the SIUE men's basketball team to a league win Thursday.
Austin Peay held off the Cougars 83-81 in overtime before 1,057 fans at the Vadalabene Center in an Ohio Valley Conference thriller. SIUE dropped to 5-13 overall and 0-4 in the OVC. Austin Peay improved to 5-13 and 1-3.
"We had tremendous energy in the second half, and our response to a slow start was probably the best thing about the way we played," SIUE Head coach Jon Harris said.
The Cougars, who trailed 33-16 with four minutes remaining in the first half, 35-25 at half and 68-56 with less than three minutes in the game, used a ferocious comeback to knot things at 70-all.
SIUE embarked on a 9-0 run to start it, then tied things on Keenan Simmons' basket with six seconds to play. Austin Peay, however, recovered and outscored the Cougars 13-11 in the overtime.
"We did a tremendous job of battling back when we had some adversity, and we really rallied around each other," Harris said. "We just came up a little short."
"Keenan has had a good year, and he's capable of doing a lot of things," Coach Harris said. "He played with a lot of energy and effort tonight."
Simmons said, "I thought I had a pretty good game. And the team did a better job in the second. We just have to keep working hard and compete the whole game."
Eslik poured in a team-best 20 points, including 14 in the second half and overtime. Harris' registered 13 points after halftime, and White pitched in 10 points.
Austin Peay's Josh Robinson connected for 26 points and teammate John Murry added 23 points. Robinson supplied some key baskets for the Governors in crucial situations.
"The kids is very talented, and he hit some tough shots," Coach Harris said.
SIUE hit 27 of 59 shots, including 6 of 20 from three-point range. The Cougars converted 21 of 30 free throws and outrebounded Austin Peay 42-36.
"It was a physical game, and we're expecting another one when we play Murray State on Saturday," Harris. The Cougars welcome the Racers, leaders of the OVC West, in a 7 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Midwest.