EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - Tierny Austin hit a pair of free throws with 18.4 seconds left as SIUE edged Kansas City 79-76 in the Cougars' home opener Saturday at the Vadalabene Center.
"I thought CoCo played tremendously on the offensive end, and she did some great things defensively too," said SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher. "She had a fantastic game, and I'm going to keep asking that from her consistently night in and night out."
UMKC, 0-3, was led by 23 points, including a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line, from point guard Eilise O'Connor.
"UMKC battles and comes at you," said Buscher. "We had some trouble defending the ball screens and made some in-game adjustments. You have to give our players a lot of credit for making those adjustments on the fly and continuing to battle."
The Cougars led the majority of the game, but the Kangaroos kept pushing back. The two teams went into the locker room at halftime tied 37-37. The two teams were once again tied 10 minutes into the second half at 54-54 on a layup by Austin.
"We knew before the game that the team that wanted it the most was going to win, and I thought we did well," Buscher said. "We weren't perfect, but we played hard."
A layup by Micah Jones with 10:37 to play would put the Cougars up 56-54. SIUE would never relinquish the lead again. The Cougars were ahead by as many as seven late in the second half, but Kansas City cut the lead to a single point on a layup by Kelsey Barnwell with 30 seconds left.
After a Kansas City turnover, Austin was fouled with 18.4 seconds left. She drained both free throws to push the lead to three. Kansas City would miss their final two three-point attempts in the waning seconds of the game.
"The fans were tremendous," said Buscher. "It's early in the season. Hopefully they saw some exciting basketball, and they'll want to come back and watch again."
SIUE continues this three-game homestand at the Vadalabene Center with a 7 p.m. game Wednesday against UIC.