Senior guard Jeff Early scored a team-high 14 points against Evansville Saturday, but 13 of those came in the first half.
The one point Early scored in the second half provided the margin of victory.
SIU won 53-52 over Evansville at the SIU Arena on a free throw from Early with two seconds left in the game.
“I was a little nervous, put in that spot,” Early said. “We knew in the back of our heads we needed this win, no matter how it was going to come.”
After trailing a majority of the game, Evansville tied the game at 52 apiece with 2:24 left in the game.
“We thought we were snake-bitten at that point,” coach Chris Lowery said.
With five seconds left in the game, Early stole the ball away from Evansville guard Troy Taylor, who fouled Early as he was driving in for a breakaway layup that would’ve given SIU the lead.
Instead, Early had to earn the win from the free-throw stripe.
“I was just thinking we need this free throw, if I could just hit one of these free throws, we should be OK,” Early said. “Even if I hit both, they were going to shoot a three, so in my head I was (focused) on just hitting one.”
Early sank the first free throw, giving SIU the 53-52 edge. But the second free throw rimmed out, Evansville rebounded and immediately called a timeout with two seconds left in the game.
Evansville inbounded the ball to Ryan, who settled for a long three-point shot over two Saluki defenders that bounced off the backboard as time expired.