EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Freshman Micah Jones completed her first career double-double Saturday as SIUE women's basketball opened the Ohio Valley Conference season with a 68-56 triumph over Belmont at the Vadalabene Center.
Jones was 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 5 from the free throw line for 20 points. She added a career-high 12 rebounds.
"Micah did a great job, and she can keep getting better and better," said SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher. "Even though she had a double-double, she still had moments where she could have had more. Our young players are improving, and our upperclassmen are playing solid and showing the younger ones how it's done."
SIUE, 4-9 overall and 1-0 in the OVC, shot 46.3 percent from the field with exactly 50 percent of its points coming in the paint.
"In our non-conference schedule, we saw a lot of different styles," noted Austin. "All of our non-conference opponents played a little differently, so we're ready for anything."
SIUE's defense stymied Belmont as the Bruins shot just 19 of 71 from the field (26.8 percent).
"We played much better defensively," said Buscher. "I give my (coaching) staff a lot of credit. We mixed some stuff up, and it helped us a lot in the second half."
Belmont had nine shots blocked for the game, including six from Raven Warford. It was the most blocks by a Cougar since Kristen Boss swatted five shots back in the 2003-2004 season.
"We've really stepped up these last two games, and our energy has been high. We're getting stops defensively and not allowing teams to score a lot against us," said Austin.
SIUE had built up as much as a 15-point lead in the first half with 13 points off the bench from Jones. The Cougars shot nearly 52 percent in the first half.
Six three-pointers by Belmont with two each from Katie Carroll, Jordyn Luffman, and Molly Ernst kept the Bruins close with a three-point deficit (36-33) at halftime.
Despite Belmont scoring the first bucket of the second half, SIUE began to rebuild its double-digit lead. The Cougars went on a 15-4 run to start the second half and didn't look back. Lauren Thompson led the Bruins in scoring with 11 points.
"We're getting to where we want to be," said Buscher. "I love our effort, and I love how we're competing. We still have moments in games where we can push harder, and we'll learn to do that. We had a brutal non-conference schedule, and I think today you could see how that paid off."
The next action for the Cougars is one week from today when SIUE entertains Eastern Kentucky in a 4 p.m. contest at the Vadalabene Center.