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EDWARDSVILLE – SIUE men's basketball picked its first home win of the year Thursday to move back above .500 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Cougars defeated Tennessee State 68-60 to sweep the season series.
The Cougars improved to 5-4 in the OVC and 7-8 overall, while snapping a two-game losing skid.
"We just battled," SIUE Head Coach Brian Barone said. "I am so proud of the guys that were out there. They battled so much."
A Michael Matas layup with 16:09 to play in the first gave SIUE an 8-7 lead and the Cougars never trailed again. SIUE led 36-28 at the half and extended the lead after halftime.
The Cougars had as much as a 15-point lead in the second half when Carlos Curtis converted a layup with 14:46 to play in the game. The Tigers got as close as six with 9:11 to play and had it down to seven (63-56) with inside of a minute left.
SIUE drained five of six free throws in the game's final 46 seconds to seal the win.
"I don't care if people are sick of me saying we are asking so much of them, because we are," Barone said of his team. "For them to gut it out the way they did after another game this week. I was really impressed with the effort."
Carlos Curtis led four SIUE players in double figures with 16 points. He added eight rebounds and five assists. Courtney Carter scored 14 points and pulled down a career-best nine rebounds. Shamar Wright scored 12 points and added a career-high 11 rebounds for the first double-double of his career. He blocked four shots, also a career-high.
The Cougars outrebounded Tennessee State 45-40, for a new season-high against a Division I opponent. They added 10 blocked shots, the third time this season they have finished with at least 10 blocks in a game.
"Energy and effort are what we have right now," Barone said. "There are not a lot of schemes. There are not a lot of additions to what we're going to do."
Shakem Johnson led Tennessee State with 30 points on 14-of-20 shooting. He also led the way with nine rebounds.
The Cougars shot 40 percent (23-58) from the field and were 18 of 27 (67 percent) at the free throw line. The Cougars scored 32 points in the paint.
"We were better in the press today," Barone said. "We were organized and we believed in what we were doing."
SIUE continue its season-long home stand with a Saturday afternoon game with Belmont. Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m. at First Community Arena.
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