COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Jessie Wendt matched her career high in scoring and was perfect from three-point range but the Cougars opened the Air Force Classic with an 87-63 loss to Wyoming.
Wendt set a career high with her 5-for-5 performance from beyond the arc. Her 24 points equaled her previous best set last season against Tennessee State.
SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said Wendt got the Cougars started in the first half by hitting all five of her field goals, including three three-pointers.
"Jessie was working hard at reading the screens," said Buscher. "It's all about her footwork. If she can get her feet set and we give her some space, she's a great shooter."
The Cougars shot 42.4 percent (25-59) for the game and set a season high with seven three-pointers. It was the defense that couldn't get on track for the Cougars.
Kayla Woodward and Kaitlyn Mileto led Wyoming as they each finished with 19 points. Mileto also had five three-pointers. Marquelle Dent added 14 for the Cowgirls.
"We need to play with more focus for 40 minutes," said Buscher. "There are too many times where we are giving in. There needs to be another level of toughness."
After winning the opening tip, the Cougars began with the lead Friday when Valerie Finnin, who finished with 10 points, led off the game with a three-pointer.
SIUE, 1-7, was even with the Cowgirls over the first five minutes of the contest. Tierny Austin, who had 14 points, five assists, and a season-high five steals, put SIUE up 16-15 on a layup with 15:05 to play in the first half. It was the fifth time this season Austin, the team's leading scorer, has finished in double figures.
Wyoming, 5-2, needed seven minutes to pick up its first double-digit lead of the game by going on a 15-4 run. The Cowgirls, members of the Mountain West Conference, would hold a nine-point lead at halftime (47-38).
Back-to-back three-pointers by Mileto to start the second half quickly put SIUE down by 15. Wyoming kept the pressure on the Cougars by scoring 29 points off SIUE's 24 turnovers and adding 16 second-chance points.
"We have to maintain our focus," said Buscher. "That is something we can control. We just have to commit to it."
The Cougars face host Air Force, also members of the Mountain West, in the tournament's final game Saturday at 5:30 p.m. CT.