EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Thanks to a stifling defense and resourceful offense, the SIUE women's basketball team retained its winning touch Saturday night at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars throttled Jacksonville State 65-41 during the annual Pink Zone game that included numerous activities for breast cancer survivors. SIUE, winning for the 10th time in its last 12 games, improved to 13-10 overall and 10-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Jacksonville State fell to 14-9 and 9-4.
"The biggest thing about this game is that we came as close to a complete effort defensively as we have had all season," SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said. "And that was huge. Our defense was tremendous."
That defensive blanket the Cougars threw over Jacksonville State enabled them to shoot ahead 29-9 three minutes into the second quarter. SIUE led 32-17 at half.
"We came out with a lot of energy and played solid defense," said senior Donshel Beck, who led all scorers with 17 points. She connected of 7 of 14 shots, including 4 of 5 from three-point range.
Beck added, "I'm getting more confident with my three-point shooting."
Teammate Sydney Bauman contributed 13 points, setting a season high matching her career-best scoring effort. Gwen Adams added 10 points off the bench as the Cougars made 25 of 54 shots, including 5 of 19 from three-point land. They also converted 10 of 12 free throws and outrebounded Jacksonville State 36-35.
"It was a group effort tonight," said Bauman, who made 6 of 8 shots.
Buscher said, "What you saw from Sydney tonight is what we see in practice from her."
Bauman noted, "My teammates were finding me, and I felt good with my shooting. I think I played a complete game."
SIUE needed a complete effort since Jacksonville State charged back at the Cougars in the second half. The Gamecocks climbed to within 41-38 late in the third quarter. Then the Cougars responded with a furious spree.
They outscored Jacksonville State 24-3 in the final 12 ½ minutes to close out the game in high style. Bauman scored eight key points in a stretch where the Cougars went on a 16-0 run.
"We challenged them a lot, and they stepped up and started playing aggressively and communicating again," Buscher said. "On offense, we were sharing the ball all over the place, and we were patient about what we are doing. Our defense got locked it, and we were really guarding them."
Jacksonville State made 15 of 55 shots, with 5 of 24 from beyond the arc. Taylor Hawks led the Gamecocks with 12 points, and she was their only player to reach double figures.
"It was a huge win for us," Buscher said, pointing to the OVC standings, where the Cougars strengthened their hold on second place.
"Now we have beaten Jacksonville State and Morehead State, the two teams that are right behind us in the standings."
And Buscher senses the Cougars are beginning to peak at the right time, though she thinks their finest game is still ahead for them.
"This was more of a complete game for us, but we still haven't played our best basketball yet," she added.
The Cougars continue their four-game homestand Wednesday when they welcome Eastern Illinois in a 7 p.m. game. Murray State then comes calling in a 6 p.m. game next Saturday.