EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (WFIE) - University of Southern Indiana Men’s Basketball could not overcome a slow start in the first half and fell to 16th-ranked and top seeded University of Missouri-St. Louis, 78-63, in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament semifinals Saturday evening in Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s First Community Arena in Edwardsville, Illinois. USI, the fourth seed, falls to 22-8 overall, while UMSL advances to the GLVC title game with a 27-5 mark.
With the loss, the Screaming Eagles will have to wait and see if they receive a NCAA Division II Tournament berth Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
USI ran into a solid UMSL defense during the opening half, finding itself down by as many as 18 points and went into the intermission down 34-20. The Eagles struggled to control the basketball during the first half for the second-straight, posting 12 turnovers, and to shoot the ball, hitting 32 percent (8-25) from the field.
In the second half, the Eagles quickly cut the first half deficit to four points, 43-39, with 12:52 left when junior guard/forward Clayton Hughes capped off a 19-9 run with a three-point bomb from the top of the arc. Junior forward Emmanuel Little led the Eagles during the run with eight of the 19 points.
The four-point deficit would be as close as the Eagles would come the rest of the game. The Triton pushed the lead back to double-digits 11:07 left, 51-41, and allowed the margin to fall below fewer than 10 points once more before closing out their 78-63 semifinal victory.
Hughes finished the game with a season-high 18 points to lead three Eagles in double-digits by shooting six-of-10 from the field, three-of-five from beyond the arc, and three-of-four from the stripe. Senior guard/forward Kobe Caldwell followed with 13 points, while Little posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
As a team, the Eagles were better form the field in the second half, hitting 51.9 percent (14-27), and controlled the boards for the game, 38-28.