Tennessee State edges Cougars 63-60

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NASHVILLETennessee State slipped past SIUE Saturday 63-60 in Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball at the Gentry Center.

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The Cougars dropped to 3-13 overall and 0-4 in OVC play. Tennessee State improved to 12-4 and 3-0 in the OVC.

The Cougars led virtually all of the first half and pushed their lead to as many as five (28-23) on a Burak Eslik three-pointer with 5:19 to play before halftime. Yemi Makanjuola made it 30-25 with a pair of free throws with 2:26 left.

Tennessee State scored eight of the final nine points in the half, including six free throws in the final two minutes of the half to lead 33-31 at halftime.

"We started the game well," SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We started the game aggressive. We gave them too many free throws. They made a bunch of free throws at the end of the half, which is why we were even down at half."   

The game stayed close to start the second half when SIUE slowed offensively and the Tigers opened up a lead. It was 39-37 TSU when the Tigers went on a 14-2 run to open its biggest lead of the night at 53-39 with 10:28 to play.

The Cougars then followed suit with their own run. Two free throws from Carlos Anderson with 56 seconds left capped a 17-2 SIUE run. The Cougars scored 12 straight points over a 4:49 span. Eslik buried a pair of three-pointers during the Cougars' surge.

"When (Tennessee State) made the run we were letting them drive," Harris said. "We started to shrink the gaps, which is what we had talked about coming into the game. The guys kind of put the game plan together and stayed in front of the dribble."

Tennessee State pushed its lead back to four, 61-57, when Xavier Roberts tipped in a missed shot. Eslik responded for the Cougars with his fifth three-pointer of the game to make it 61-60 with eight seconds remaining.

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Keron DeShields hit a pair of free throws with five seconds left for the final margin.

Eslik tied his career high with 23 points to lead the Cougars. He knocked down a career-best five three-pointers along the way.

"Burak played well," Harris said. "He put together a solid game together on both ends of the floor tonight and that's what we needed from him."

Anderson scored 15 points and is averaging 15.7 points per game over his last three games.  

"Carlos is playing good basketball right now," Harris added. "He is a confident kid and he's strong-minded. He's really battled on the defensive end. He's doing some positive things for us."

Neither team was particularly sharp from the field or from the free throw line. The Cougars shot 36.2 percent (17-47) from the floor and went 17 for 27 (63 percent) from the free throw line. Tennessee State was 23 of 53 (43.4 percent) from the field and 13 for 21 (61.9 percent) from the free throw line.

The Tigers scored 32 points in the paint while also adding 15 points resulting from 14 SIUE turnovers.

"Foul trouble hurt us in the first half. It took us out of our rhythm," Harris said. "We managed to stay right there. They pulled away mid part of the second half and we made a run at them. The guys continued to battle. Two things I'd point to in this game is turnovers and missed free throws cost us the game."

Darreon Reddick scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead TSU. DeShields added 11 points and also collected seven rebounds.

SIUE returns home for a Wednesday night game against Morehead State. The game is the second of a doubleheader with the women's team. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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