LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Ray’Sean Taylor has had big moments wearing the Cougar uniform. Tonight, he added another one to his resume.
Tied at 81 with 2.1 seconds remaining in the contest, Taylor knocked down a shot from beyond half-court at the buzzer. After an official review, the call on the floor stood, giving SIUE an 84-81 victory over Little Rock on Saturday night at Jack Stephens Center.
“This team had my back tonight,” Head Coach Brian Barone said. “Ray wanted the ball down the stretch and on that last play. The play was intended to be thrown longer, but he got the ball and shot it.”
SIUE improves to 16-9 overall and 7-5 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Little Rock falls to 7-18 and 3-9.
“Ray knocks down last-second shots every single day,” added Barone. “He just does. I’m stunned. I love that they had my back. That was huge. I love this team”
The Cougars led by as many as 15 with 16:19 to play in the second half. The Trojans erased their deficit, bringing the game to within five points with just over five minutes to go. The Cougars took the following four points on a pair of Terrance Thompson free throws and a fast break dunk by Shamar Wright.
Little Rock followed up with a three-pointer 18 seconds later, cutting the Cougar’s lead back to six. With 3:10 to play, Wright gave the Cougars possession on a steal, leading to a media timeout.
An SIUE turnover gave the Trojans possession with 2:02 to play, where Little Rock’s C.J. White hit a jumper in the paint after grabbing an offensive rebound a second prior. Demarco Minor responded 29 seconds later with a jumper of his own in the paint to bring SIUE’s lead back to six.
With 1:30 to go, D.J. Smith of Little Rock converted on a layup opportunity to bring the game back to four. At 79-75 with 38 seconds to play, Little Rock’s White knocked down another second chance point inside the paint. SIUE shaved 24 seconds off the clock when Taylor secured a driving layup. The Trojans used a 60-second timeout with seven seconds to play.
Little Rock converted a layup a second later, bringing the score to 81-79 with six seconds to go. Lamar Wright drew a foul on the inbound pass, sending him to the line with three seconds to go. Wright missed both shots at the line and Little Rock’s White grabbed a defensive rebound. Shamar Wright fouled White, sending Little Rock to the line. White went 2-2, forcing the Cougars to take a 60-second timeout to draw up a last-second opportunity to prevent overtime. Taylor sealed the game following the timeout.
SIUE shot 56 percent (32-57) and 47 percent (10-21) from long range, marking the second time the Cougars hit 10 from deep this season.
Four Cougars scored in double-figures, led by Taylor’s 21. He was 8-15 from the field and 4-7 from three-point territory. He also led SIUE with six rebounds.
Minor collected 20, going 10-14 and 2-3 from deep. He contributed three boards and a team-high three assists. DeeJuan Pruitt added 13 while Shamar scored 12 while blocking two shots each.
“When everyone is on, it’s special to watch,” said Barone. “We have a lot of stars on this team. What I mean by that, is we have a lot of guys who know their role and they embrace it. They are all stars in their role.”
Thompson finished the game with seven points and five rebounds.
“He’s one of the guys who’s a star in his role,” added Barone. “He understands and embraces it.”
Little Rock’s scoring was led by Gordon’s 21. He was 9-18 and 2-2 from deep.
“Little Rock is a solid team in this conference,” said Barone. “Every win in the OVC matters. Road games are tough to win. This is a big one.”
SIUE returns to the road for a Thursday meeting with Lindenwood. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.