Myers buries game-winning shot as Leathernecks advance to OVC Tournament semifinals

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​​EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Chad Boudreau chose not to call a timeout.

Ryan Myers made it look like a genius move.

A free throw by Tennessee State’s Kinyon Hodges with 17 seconds remaining in regulation Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament tied the game at 59 and gave Western Illinois University possession with the chance for a final shot.

“Coach did call Zoom 5, but me, I’m embracing being here, so I went with it and am grateful I made the shot,” Myers said.

His jumper from the right baseline with 2.3 seconds remaining gave the Leathernecks a 61-59 victory and the opportunity to play another day.

Fourth-seeded WIU (21-11) will face top-seeded Little Rock (20-11) at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinal at the Ford Center.

“Older teams, they can play through the adversity, they can sort it out, they don’t need me to bail them out,” said Boudreau, who is in his first season as the WIU head coach. “I don’t bail them out anywhere else, I don’t bail them out in the classroom, off the floor, so we can work through it and sort it out.”

The game featured 13 ties and 10 lead changes before WIU finished it off.

“This is a big win for us and the program, but we have two more to win,” said WIU junior guard Quinlan Bennett, who scored a team-high 18 points and added 10 rebounds for his second double-double this season.

Turnovers and free throws could have been the Leathernecks undoing. WIU committed 19 turnovers, leading to 25 points for Tennessee Tech. The Leathernecks also went 16 of 29 (55.2 percent) from the free-throw line.

“We made sure we stuck together,” Bennett said. “Before the game started, in shootaround, we told each other to stay together, and that’s what we did and what helped us win the game.”

The Leathernecks led by as many as eight in the second half, but Tennessee State took a lead as large as five with eight minutes to go. JJ Kalakon finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for WIU, while Jesiah West had 12 points and nine rebounds. Drew Cisse added six points and 12 rebounds.

The victory is the first for WIU in a conference tournament since a first-round victory over South Dakota State in the 2018-19 Summit League quarterfinals. The Leathernecks have not advanced to a conference championship game since the 2011-12 season.

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