CARBONDALE — SIUE men's basketball connected on a season-best 54 percent of its shots Wednesday, including knocking down a season-high 10 three-pointers en route to a 76-74 upset of SIU Carbondale at SIU Arena.
SIUE's win marked the first in the series with its sister school and was the first road win for the team under head coach Jon Harris. The Cougars improved to 2-7. It was the first home loss this season for SIU Carbondale which dropped to 8-2 with the defeat.
"Our guys did a great job," Harris said. "They put a full game together and found a way. We didn't do everything great down the stretch. But we found a way to get a win and that's the most important thing."
The Cougars led 39-37 at the break. The Salukis got a quick three-point play by Anthony Beane to open the second half and led 40-39 just 16 seconds into the period.
Burak Eslik hit a foul shot to tie the game 40-40 and then buried a three-pointer at the 19:03 mark to move the Cougars in front 43-40. They never trailed again in the game.
SIUE built as large as a 12-point lead in the game and survived a furious late comeback attempt by the Salukis.
Eslik gave the Cougars their largest lead with a jumper with 5:34 to play which made it 68-56. From there SIUC went on a 12-3 run to pull within one at 71-70. Eslik knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game to push the Cougars' lead back to 74-70.
On the following possession, Armon Fletcher took a handoff and slammed in a two-handed dunk for SIUC. Fletcher then stole away then ensuing inbounds pass and scored off the glass to tie the score.
Following an SIUE timeout, C.J. Carr knocked down a jumper to give the Cougars back the lead. SIU Carbondale got the ball back with 25 seconds to play. The Cougars' forced Sean O'Brien into a contested three-pointer which missed before SIUE's Carlos Anderson yanked down the rebound as time expired.
"There are a lot of things that we didn't do well, but we got a huge stop late and that was the deciding factor in the game," Harris said.
Eslik led all scorers with a career-high 23 points. He was 8 of 15 from the field and 4 for 6 from three-point range.
"He let the game come to him," Harris said of Eslik. "He was aggressive. He did a good job shooting his pull-up tonight and the guys did a good job finding him."
Carr scored a season-high 16 points, going 6 for 7 from the field and hitting both of his three-point attempts. Grant Fiorentinos added 13 points and was the only other SIUE player to score in double figures.
Devin Thornton scored a career-high nine points off the bench, drilling three second-half three-pointers.
"Devin was phenomenal," Harris said. "Devin is a utility guy for us. He brings energy and he plays with passion. He's got a great IQ and you can move him around on the floor. He's a guy that works and it's good to see him have success."
For the game, the Cougars were 25-46 (54.3 percent) from the field and 10 for 16 (62.5 percent) from three-point range.
"We play hard, we compete and we haven't done a good job of making shots," Harris said. "I told the guys they had to stay the course. They continued to come in and work. We got some shots to go down tonight and hopefully we gain a little confidence from that moving forward."
Beane led the Salukis with 21 points. He hit two of SIUC's three three-pointers. The Salukis finished 3 for 15 from beyond the arc. O'Brien scored 15 and Fletcher finished with 10.
"This is a confidence builder," Harris added. "Hopefully this will give us some momentum going into this three-game stretch before we go into Ohio Valley Conference play."
SIUE plays host to Portland State Saturday afternoon at Vadalabene Center. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Midwest.