EVANSVILLE, Ind. – SIUE women's basketball led from start to finish Thursday, capturing a commanding 76-43 victory over Austin Peay in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
The Cougars, 17-13, now advance to the OVC Tournament semifinals for the fourth straight season and will take on UT Martin in a 3 p.m. game Friday.
SIUE nearly broke the OVC Tournament record for largest margin of victory after leading by as many as 40 points in the third quarter. The record continues to be Tennessee Tech's 89-54 win over Youngstown State in 1986.
The previous best win for SIUE in the OVC Tournament was 12 points against Tennessee State in 2013.
For SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher, it wasn't about the point differential. It was about a great beginning.
"I liked how we started the game," said Buscher. "I thought we started with toughness, and that's the thing I have been preaching."
The Cougars won the opening tip and scored on its first possession on a jumper by freshman Allie Troeckler, who finished with 11 points and needed one more rebound for a double-double.
Austin Peay, which closed out the season 16-14, would never get closer.
Lauren White followed with a three-pointer in the first period to make it 5-0. She scored 12 points and now needs just six points to become the 26th player in school history to pass the 1,000-point mark.
SIUE had its first double-digit lead of the game at the 1:18 mark of the first period on a free throw by Sydney Bauman. It would be the second quarter when the Cougars applied maximum pressure.
The lead extended to 30 points at halftime as SIUE gained a 25-5 edge in the second period. Nakiah Bell came off the bench to score 10 of her game-high 13 points as SIUE led at halftime 45-15.
"I feel like our team stepped up and locked in defensively," said Buscher.
SIUE also dominated the boards with a 46-31 edge over the Governors. Bauman led SIUE with 12 rebounds.
"What I like is that we limited them to one-and-out scenarios," said Buscher. "I think you have to do that in postseason play. You have to show your toughness, step up and hit your block outs."
Austin Peay finished the game without anyone scoring in double figures. Brianne Alexander and Myah Leflore scored seven points each.
SIUE's sizeable lead also gave Buscher an opportunity to play more of the bench as 12 Cougars played 10 or more minutes in the game. Troeckler had the most with 24.
"Those were learning moments for people who are going to be contributors in the future," said Buscher.
The Cougars threw out numerous lineups against the Governors, which shot 14 of 54 for the game (25.9 percent). SIUE, meanwhile, connected on 26 of 57 (45.6 percent).
"I think one of the strengths of our team is the depth of our bench," said Buscher.