The women’s basketball team started a three-game home stretch Thursday, Jan. 14 at the Vadalabene Center. The Cougars took on the Morehead State University Eagles in a 90-81 win.
In a high-scoring first period, led by sophomore guard Donshel Beck’s nine points, the Cougars had six assists and forced seven turnovers. Redshirt senior guard Shronda Butts, senior guard CoCo Moore and freshman center Sydney Bauman all contributed points as the Cougars closed the period with a 25-18 lead over the Eagles.
SIUE jumped to an 11-point lead off two quick baskets by Beck. The lead was immediately cut to two, as MSU scored on two transition baskets followed by a corner three-pointer. The Cougars were outscored 20-8 in the second period, and the Eagles walked into the locker room with a slight 40-34 lead over SIUE. Head Coach Paula Buscher said the Cougars were unable to control the tempo of the fast-paced Eagles.
“They went on such a huge run, and we were rushing things offensively. We were taking quick shots, and they wanted to get up and down the court while we were trying to slow things down,” Buscher said.
Beck finished the half with 13 points and led all scorers. Moore had six points after two periods of play. Freshman guard Miranda Crockett, junior forward Shay Steele and junior guard Aaliyah Wells led MSU scorers with eight points apiece.
Midway through the third quarter, the Cougars found themselves down by seven points. After a strong defensive stand, and a pair of timely three-pointers from sophomore guard Sidney Smith, SIUE had cut the Eagles’ lead to three at 57-54. A steal by Moore and a three-point shot by Butts tied the game at an even 57. With less than one minute, 40 seconds, Moore pulled down a missed free throw and fed the ball to Butts, who buried her third three-pointer on the period. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the period, and MSU came out on top with a 66-64 lead.
The Cougars forced three straight defensive stops while scoring at the other end. Buscher took a time-out with just over seven minutes, 30 seconds left to play and a two-point Cougar lead. Moore extended the lead to three as she split a pair from the charity stripe.
With less than five minutes to play, both Beck and sophomore forward Gwen Adams had fouled out. A three-pointer by Butts was offset by an MSU three-pointer. Butts answered with an acrobatic jumper from just inside the three-point line. A charge brought on by redshirt sophomore guard Lauren White gave the Cougars the ball back with a three-point lead. Butts brought the ball up the court and wound down the clock to 50 seconds before burying a contested jumper to take an 84-79 lead. SIUE forced a defensive stop, which caused the Eagles to foul. Cougar free throws, and a White layup, sealed the Cougars 90-81 win over MSU.
Butts led all scorers with 30 points. Beck had 19 points, and White finished with 10 points. Buscher said Butts was patient, and took advantage of the second half strategy.
“[Butts] stayed calm and let the game come to her. We tried to set her up on set plays in the first half, but in the second half we opened up our motion, and that paid off for [Butts],” Buscher said.
The Cougars played game two of a doubleheader against the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels in a 89-74 win on Saturday, Jan. 16 at the Vadalabene Center. The win over EKU boosted the Cougar’s record to 10-9 and 5-1 in OVC play.
Backed by a 19-5 second period and 51.6 percent shooting from the floor, the Cougars have five players in double digits. Butts with 24, Adams with 17, Moore with 16, 10 from Beck and 10 from freshman guard Amri Wilder.
Buscher said she is pleased with the scoring distribution and the team’s ability to open up scoring options.
“You want to be in a position as a coach where you don’t have to rely on one person,” Buscher said. “We all know [Butts] can score, but I love it when she engages everyone else. We showed tonight that we have a lot of different weapons on our team.”
The Cougars had a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. EKU came off the break ready to take back the game, but the Cougars were determined to keep their lead. The Colonels shot 11 of 16 from the field, but SIUE countered with 7 of 11 from the field and 10 shots from the charity stripe.
The Cougars will continue OVC play at home, and play the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 8 p.m.