EIU beats SIUE 78-74 to clinch OVC tourney berth

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) Chris Olivier and Reggie Smith both scored 19 points and Eastern Illinois defeated SIU-Edwardsville 78-74 Saturday night to clinch a berth in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in a regular-season finale

After Austin Peay defeated UT Martin earlier in the day, EIU (11-18, 7-9), which had lost its four previous conference games, had to win.

Smith made 15 of 17 free throws. Sherman Blanford, 2 of 11 from the field, sank 9 of 13 free throws and finished with 13 points along with 14 rebounds for his ninth double-double this season. The Panthers shot 41 free throws, making 31.

The Cougars (11-19, 7-9), already qualified for the tournament, got 15 points from Donivine Stewart to lead five SIUE players in double figures. EIU led the final 14 minutes. SIUE scored five points to get within five with 15 seconds left, but Smith made three free throws to ensure the victory.