EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A robust offense spurred the SIUE women's basketball team to season-high scoring effort Friday. The Cougars overtook Illinois State 92-80 in a nonconference game at the Vadalabene Center.
Five players hit for double figures to help SIUE snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 4-9 going into Ohio Valley Conference competition Dec. 31 against Tennessee Tech. Illinois State, of the Missouri Valley Conference, suffered its fifth consecutive setback and fell to 3-8.
Yet it was the Cougars' defense that excited SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher the most. SIUE outscored ISU 19-0 during a 6.5-minute stretch of the fourth quarter to turn a 73-67 deficit into a 13-point advantage.
"Our defense in the fourth quarter was the difference in the game," Buscher said. "We showed a lot of fight and made a decision to become a good defensive team. We started to get excited about our defensive stops, and we changed the tide with them."
Junior guard Lauren White said the Cougars focused on playing sound defense when the game was on the line.
"Defense is something we work on, and we played good defense when we needed to do it," she said.
Teammate Donshel Beck, a 5-foot-9 junior forward, agreed.
"We buckled down in the fourth quarter and we played harder on defense," she said.
White and Beck also stoked the Cougars' attack. Beck scored a team-best 25 points – just two points shy of a career high – and White pitched in 20 points and seven assists. Her 20 points matched a career-best output she set at Northern Illinois on Dec. 16.
"Lauren had a nice game today and really stepped it up," Buscher said. "She's as quick on a straight line to the basket as anybody I've ever coached."
Buscher added, "And Donshel goes 100 miles per hour and gives it everything she has all the time."
Gwen Adams collected 10 points and 10 rebounds, her second straight double-double, to complement Beck and White's contribution. Nakiah Bell scored 12 points and Amri Wilder punched in 11 points. SIUE's starters thus accounted for 78 points. The Cougars accounted for 22 assists with their 30 baskets. They made 31 of 70 shots, including 9 of 25 treys. SIUE also converted 9 of 11 free throws.
"We have so many players who can score," Buscher said, alluding to the season-high production. SIUE's previous best was 78 points, both times in December.
The Cougars open OVC Saturday when they play host to Tennessee Tech at noon.
It's the start of 16 consecutive OVC games for the women's basketball team, and they are primed for it.
"We needed this one, and we are ready for conference play," White said. "We want to take over and do what we've been trying to do."
"It's really good to get this win going into conference play because I think we are better than our record shows," Buscher noted.