EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A fast finish enabled the SIUE women's basketball team to prevail in its lone preseason game Monday.
The Cougars used a strong fourth quarter to defeat Illinois Wesleyan 81-71 at the Vadalabene Center. SIUE opens is regular-season schedule at home in a 2 p.m. game Sunday with Illinois State of the Missouri Valley Conference.
"I'm proud of our fourth quarter because we played the way we are capable of playing and held Illinois Wesleyan to 11 points," seventh-year SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said. "Give credit to our players. We had some ups and downs, but I think you saw at the end of the game how we can heat up against a well-organized, disciplined and scrappy team."
Jay'nee Alston, a 5-foot, 8-inch senior guard, lit the fuse to supply plenty of the Cougars' heat. She scored 26 points thanks to 9-for-14 shooting, including 4 of 5 from 3-point land. Alston also made four of five free throws.
"She played relaxed and with a lot of confidence," Buscher said.
Alston noted, "I've been working hard in practice and working a lot on my shot. I think we played our game tonight in the fourth quarter. We kept our poise and played with a lot of energy."
Teammate Sydney Bauman was equally effective in supplying 15 points and 15 rebounds. She also had four assists.
"Sydney had a solid game and she should be a double-double player every night."
Christen King contributed 12 points and Nakiah Bell punched in 11 more for SIUE, which made 28 shots, including 9 of 38 treys. The Cougars converted 16 of 19 free throws and outrebounded the Titans 46-36.
"We have great firepower with our three-point shooters, and we have a lot of depth. We went pretty deep with our players tonight," Buscher said.
Five players scored in double figures for Division III Illinois Wesleyan, which made 24 of 60 shots, including 10 of 22 from 3-point range. Maddie Merritt and Kendall Sosa both scored 16 points to lead the Titans.
Following the Cougars' home opener Sunday, they hit the road for nine consecutive games, including dates at Evansville (Nov. 14), Missouri (Nov. 19), Saint Louis University (Dec. 1), Illinois (Dec. 15) and the Roos Holiday Classic in Kansas City, Mo. (Dec. 20-21). They don't return home again until McKendree University of Lebanon comes calling (Dec. 30).
"Now the season starts and we want to concentrate playing with energy and enthusiasm," Buscher said. "The team has fun playing the game. We will be on the road more than I like early in the season, but that's the way it is. We'll be ready to play."