CONWAY, Ark. – Central Arkansas used a 15-0 first-half run and then held off SIUE women's basketball Thursday night 51-39 in the opening round of the Women's Basketball Invitational.
SIUE completed the season with a 17-15 record. Central Arkansas moved to 23-9 and advances in the WBI.
"They are the heart of soul of this team," she said. "Between Donnie, Lauren, Gwen and Elina, they've helped establish this program to be among the top couple of teams in the Ohio Valley Conference. They got us to that point. Now they need to hand it over to the youngsters, and they need to continue that expectation."
The Cougars leaped out to a 10-2 lead in the first period at the Farris Center only to have Central Arkansas go on a 15-0 run. By halftime, Central Arkansas extended its lead to 32-18.
"I don't think we were strong enough during that time period," said Buscher. "It has to do with your intensity on the defensive end and limiting offensive boards."
Buscher said the Cougars didn't step up and challenge UCA in the first half, allowing a 21-11 rebounding differential over the first 20 minutes of play.
"We did a good job of doing that in the third quarter," said Buscher. "All of sudden we got good post touches in the third quarter, and I thought we scored well."
SIUE came back with its own 18-2 run in the third period. After a Sydney Bauman layup and a jump shot by Zaria Whitlock, SIUE cut Central Arkansas' lead to one point at 37-36 with 8:50 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars outgrinded Central Arkansas in the third period and the beginning of the fourth period, a trait that Buscher has instilled in the 2017-18 Cougars.
Central Arkansas, however, never trailed in the second half and pushed back over the final eight minutes. Taylor Sells led the Sugar Bears in scoring with 12 points followed by 11 from Taylor Baudoin.
The Suger Bears edged the Cougars on the boards 36-32. SIUE won the battle in the paint 32-28.
Bauman was SIUE's leading scorer with 12 points. She also extended her single-season blocks record with five more tonight. She finished the season with 63 and now has a SIUE career-best 133 blocks.
Buscher said the WBI contest gave her future players a taste of the next level.
"We did get some of the underclassmen some great postseason tournament experience," she added.