EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- A sizable double-digit lead had disappeared, once again. This time, at the hands of SIU Edwardsville.
But down five points with a minute remaining, Murray State's defense came away with three consecutive stops, got two baskets from junior forward Devin Gilmore, a 27-foot 3-pointer from sophomore guard Tevin Brown, and a final emphatic swat from freshman forward Demond Robinson - and the Racers survived the Cougars, 59-58, on Saturday afternoon at First Community Arena at the Vadalabene Center.
"He's the ultimate winner," noted MSU coach Matt McMahon, after Brown's shot. "There's no one in America that I want taking that shot than Tevin Brown. Felt good from the second it left his hands that he would knock it down.
"And then you still had to finish the game. We're up one at that point. They used a timeout. We've got to get a stop on the side out of bounds. Huge block from Demond Robinson. Have to get a stop at the out-of-bounds under. Got a deflection. Clock didn't start on time. Now you've got to get a stop on this side out of bounds. We had to get basically three stops in seven seconds to win the game."
Brown's dagger - which came off of a deep swing pass from freshman point guard Chico Carter Jr. - was his only 3-pointer of the game, and prior to the shot, he'd been 1-for-8 from the field, 0-for-6 from the arc and 5-for-10 from the stripe.
"I just keep shooting the ball," Brown said. "It's what I've been doing all my life. I've been preparing for moments for this all my life. And if I'm doing that my whole life, there's no reason for me to stop now just because I've had a couple of bad games.
"I just keep shooting the ball."
MSU (20-9, 13-3 Ohio Valley) had built a 36-19 halftime lead on several laurels. Junior guard Javieon Eaves finished with a career-tying 21 points, including a perfect 5-for-5 from the arc in the first 20 minutes. The Cougars (7-22, 4-12) were anemic from the field, shooting 8-for-27 while missing all eight 3-point attempts.
But that completely flipped in the second half, and SIUE slowly -- but surely -- shortened its deficit. The Racers shot 7-for-21 from the field after halftime, 1-for-9 from the arc and 8-for-16 from the stripe. And after limiting turnovers in the first half (five), nine more piled on after the break.
An 18-3 run over eight minutes cut it to a 39-37 Racer lead. A jumper and two free throws from Eaves had MSU up 44-37 before the Cougars responded again on a 12-2 run - a layup from Iziah James and two free throws from Tyresse Williford (14 points, seven assists) provided their first lead of the game, 49-47.
Again, MSU pushed back, as two free throws from Brown, a Brown steal-and-score and a transition layup from freshman guard DaQuan Smith made for a 52-49 advantage.
A transition triple from Cam Williams tied it and propped up an 8-0 run for the Cougars, before Gilmore, Brown and Robinson combined efforts in those final moments.
"What we went through on Thursday was tough," McMahon added. "We're all human. And you could see it weighing on them. And you just want to help them move on as a coach. Move on and make the next play.
"I'm just proud, down five with a minute to go - we can talk about all the struggles and mistakes and missed free throws - but down five with a minute to go and find a way to win? I think that speaks to the character of our players."
An hour after MSU's last-second win in Edwardsville, first-place Austin Peay fell in overtime at Eastern Illinois, 83-80, after surrendering a 16-point lead in Lantz Arena.
Foul trouble forced the Racers to roll out 10 players in the win, including freshman point guard Noah Kamba, junior guard Jason Holliday, sophomore forward KJ Williams, Gilmore and Carter off the bench.
It's also something SIUE took advantage of, shooting 52.2% from the field in the second half, 13-for-17 from the stripe and winning the rebounding battle in the final 20 minutes (20-12).
"We just can't get complacent with our leads," Brown said. "We've got to be able to hold on to those, and execute throughout the whole game. And continually lock up in the whole game, like we do in the first half, in the second half, as well."
Murray St. 59, SIUE 58
MURRAY ST. (20-8)
Robinson 2-6 0-3 4, A.Smith 2-4 0-0 4, D.Smith 2-7 0-0 4, Brown 2-9 5-10 10, Eaves 7-12 2-2 21, Carter 2-5 0-0 5, K.Williams 1-5 3-7 5, Kamba 0-0 0-0 0, Gilmore 2-3 2-2 6, Holliday 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-51 12-24 59.
Uzuegbunem 2-4 2-2 6, Jackson 3-6 2-2 8, Wright 3-5 3-4 9, Williford 5-11 3-4 14, Moore 3-10 4-6 10, Adewunmi 0-2 0-0 0, Duling 0-1 0-0 0, James 1-4 1-2 3, C.Williams 3-7 1-2 8, Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 16-22 58.
Halftime--Murray St. 36-19. 3-Point Goals--Murray St. 7-21 (D.Smith 0-5, Brown 1-7, Eaves 5-6, Carter 1-2, K.Williams 0-1), SIUE 2-14 (Jackson 0-3, Williford 1-5, Moore 0-3, Adewunmi 0-1, James 0-1, C.Williams 1-1). Fouled Out--A.Smith. Rebounds--Murray St. 33 (Robinson 9), SIUE 38 (Uzuegbunem, Wright 7). Assists--Murray St. 13 (Brown 3), SIUE 12 (Williford 7). Total Fouls--Murray St. 22, SIUE 20. A--N/A.