The women’s basketball team took on the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at the Vadalabene Center. The Cougars won the game 80-73 to take the lead in the Ohio Valley Conference.

SIUE got its first points off a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Gwen Adams. In a fast-paced opening period, the Cougars led the Redhawks 26-24. Sophomore guard Sidney Smith had 12 points on four three-pointers to lead all scorers, while redshirt senior guard Shronda Butts assisted on five Cougar baskets.

Senior guard Erin Kelley opened the second period with a deep three-pointer to give the Cougars their largest lead of the game at 29-24. After a 6-0 SEMO run, Kelley put the Cougars back on top with her second three-pointer of the game. The teams traded baskets, and SIUE commanded a 47-41 six-point lead after 20 minutes of play.

Redshirt freshman forward Imani Johnson and SIUE’s Smith led all scorers with 12 points apiece. Redshirt sophomore guard Lauren White led the Cougars with three rebounds, while adding seven points to the Cougar lead.

The Redhawks cut the deficit to four in a low-scoring third period. In the fourth, SIUE quickly scored on a basket and the foul from Adams. Senior guard CoCo Moore added a layup to put the Cougars up by nine. The teams traded baskets, until the Redhawks made three consecutive defensive stops to pull within one point of SIUE.

White raced down the court off an inbounds pass, and picked up the shooting foul while making the basket. With the free throw, White extended the lead to 70-66 with two minutes, 15 seconds in the game. Butts converted a SEMO turnover into a layup that the Redhawks answered on the transition.

With one minute, 10 seconds remaining and the shot clock winding down, Butts made a corner three-pointer to force a SEMO timeout and give the Cougars a 75-68 lead. SEMO intentionally fouled to send the Cougars to the line with 35 seconds remaining. Butts and White both split their free throws and put the Cougars ahead 77-70. Moore made two free throws followed by a free throw from Adams to end the game with an 80-73 win and a 6-1 lead in the OVC conference.

All five Cougar starters scored in double figures against the Redhawks. Butts, who was chosen as OVC Preseason Player of the Year, said although she did not have her average-scoring game, her teammates were there to back her up.

“I wasn’t really on in this game, but the rest of my teammates were. I think that was the greatest part of the game. Even though I wasn’t hitting, my team was still encouraging me to do better,” Butts said.

Head Coach Paula Buscher said a tough game was expected, and the Cougars will head back to the court to remain in control of the OVC.

"We did play a little differently offensively, but I thought this game lived up to what it was supposed to be. It was a fun game and both teams really battled hard. That's how the game is supposed to be played. Although we may have taken the top spot in the conference, we feel good about it, but we show up tomorrow, and we get back to work. Where you are right now in the season doesn't make any difference. It matters where you are in March," Buscher said.

The Cougars hit the road and beat the Murray State University Racers in a 64-61 thriller on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Murray, Ky. SIUE has won its last four games while taking a 7-1 lead in the OVC.

After an even 18-18 first period, the Cougars stormed out to a 12-point halftime lead, outscoring the Racers 20-8 in the second period. Butts had 10 first-half points for the Cougars, while Adams contributed eight points and seven rebounds in the first two periods.

Coach Buscher said she was happy with the team’s fluidity and anticipation in the high-scoring second period.

“I thought we did a great job in the first and second periods with ball movement and spacing,” Buscher said.

SIUE held a 14-point lead in the second half which was cut throughout the fourth quarter. The Racers pulled within one point of the Cougars with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. Butts put the game away with a pair of free throws, giving her 28 on the night.

The Cougars look to continue their winning streak on the road at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27 in Clarksville, Tenn. against the Austin Peay State University Governors. 

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