EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Lauren White made sure the SIUE women's basketball team continued its winning ways Saturday night.
White, a redshirt senior from Edwardsville, Illlinois, hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Cougars over UT Martin 73-70 in an Ohio Valley Conference game at the Vadalabene Center.
SIUE, winning its third consecutive game and for the seventh time in eight games, improved to 10-9 overall and 7-1 in the OVC. The Cougars remain one game behind league-leading Belmont. UT Martin fell to 8-12 and 4-4.
"It was a great team win, and it always feels good to do it again," White said of her game-winning shot. She hit a last-second three-point shot last season at the Vadalabene Center to help the Cougars shade Southeast Missouri 70-69.
White, who scored a game-high 20 points, including 16 in the second half, added: "It didn't feel any different than the shot I made last year. I was confident because this one looked good when I shot it and it felt good to make it."
"Lauren stepped up and hit a great shot and Donnie (Donshel Beck) was patient enough to find her and made a good pass," SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said. "During the timeout just before the last shot, I told all of our players to be confident when shooting the ball – no matter who took the last shot."
Freshman Allie Troeckler scored a season-best 15 points and snared five rebounds to complement White's scoring. Jay'Nee Alston contributed 11 points. Sydney Bauman collected 10 points and seven rebounds, while Beck had nine points and seven rebounds.
"I think the difference between the way we are playing now and earlier in the season is more confidence," Buscher said. "When you win, it breeds more confidence."
Troeckler made 6 of 8 shots, plus 3 of 5 free throws and also handed out five assists. Her self-assurance is growing, Buscher said.
"I told Allie that she was making too many turnovers because she wasn't looking to score," Buscher said. "Tonight, she was looking at the rim and looking to score. She's a great scorer and the sky's the limit for her."
"I think it was my best game offensively," said Troeckler. "Coach has been telling me to look more at the rim and score. As a team, our confidence has been growing from winning games."
White said the way the Cougars are winning is also vital.
"This win was definitely important, and we want to take this (attitude) into our next game," she said. "Our nonconference schedule was tough, but it has influenced what we are doing now. We have been able to push and get over the hump."
A strong defensive effort got the Cougars pointed in the right direction against UT Martin. The Skyhawks missed their first 10 shots and went 1 for 13 from the field in trailing 17-5 by the end of the quarter.
However, UT Martin guard Kendall Spray connected on a trio of three-pointers early in the second quarter as the Skyhawks mounted a comeback, thanks to an 11-0 run. Alston (six points), Gwen Adams (six points) and Troeckler (five points) led SIUE's scoring the first half as the Cougars and led 28-26 at the break.
"We came out with a lot of intensity and energy to start the game and then it flipped on us in the second quarter," Buscher said
The lead changed hands eight times and the game was knotted seven times in the second half before White made her magic again at the end of the game.
SIUE made 28 of 57 shots, including 6 of 17 from three-point range. The Cougars converted 11 of 20 free throws and outrebounded UT Martin 36-29. The Skyhawks sank 23 of 55 shots, including 12 of 30 from three-point land. They were 12 of 17 on their free throw shots. Spray led them with 16 points, thanks mainly to four three-pointers.
The Cougars travel to Tennessee for a pair of games next week. They go to Tennessee State for an 11:30 a.m. game on Thursday and Belmont for a 3 p.m. contest next Saturday. Both games are in Nashville.
"We're not looking ahead," Buscher said. "The most important game is our next game, but I like the way our team is playing. We're playing with a lot of confidence."
SIUE returns home on Thursday, Feb. 1, for a special 11:30 a.m. tipoff against Tennessee Tech. The Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery is sponsoring its third annual Field Trip Day for local students in grades 3-8 that day.