EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Christen King helped propel the SIUE women's basketball team to one of its most significant wins of the season Thursday night at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat Tennessee Tech 63-61 in an Ohio Valley Conference game and enhance their aspirations for next week's league tournament. They improved to 13-15 overall and 8-9 in the OVC. The Golden Eagles dropped to 19-9 and 11-6.
"I thought it was a lot of fun," SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said of the Cougars' biggest comeback this season. "You saw a group of players going to the next play. They stayed locked in and didn't get caught up in anything."
King, a 5-foot, 9-inch sophomore guard from Medina, Tennessee, emerged as the catalyst. She scored a career-high and game-best 23 points, including 19 in the second half. Her layup with 48.7 seconds remaining snapped a 61-61 tie and served as the final points of the game.
"She did a good job, and other people did a good job setting her up for shots," Buscher said.
King, who scored 21 points on Jan. 21 in SIUE's 79-55 loss at Tennessee Tech, made 9 of 12 shots in the rematch. She connected on her only three-pointer, converted 4 of 7 free throws and had four assists.
"I give all the credit to my teammates," King said. "I got some great screens."
"This is exciting," Alston said of the come-from-behind victory. "We kept fighting, and that's what we had to do."
King added, "It's an important win, but we will treat it like any other one."
Tennessee Tech used a 12-0 run at the end of the second quarter to build a 37-27 halftime lead. And the Golden Eagles stretched the spree to 20-2 in widening their advantage to 45-29 early in the third quarter.
That's when the Cougars went to work.
SIUE went on a 16-0 binge in 4.5 minutes to knot things at 45-45 on King's three-point play with 3:37 to go in the third quarter.
"We had our backs against the wall a little bit, but it's all about character," Buscher said. "As long as you have time on the clock, you keep playing the game."
She noted, "I think this win helps our confidence and every time that you win, you feel good about it."
Lacy Cantrell scored 17 points and snared eight rebounds to lead Tennessee Tech, which made 21 of 52 shots, including 7 of 15 treys. SIUE hit on 25 of 59 shots, went 3 of 17 from three-point range and sank 10 of 19 foul shots. The Cougars also combined for 14 assists, six more than the Golden Eagles, and committed just nine turnovers. Tennessee Tech made 18 turnovers.
The Cougars close their regular-season schedule Saturday when they play host to Jacksonville State at 2 p.m. It'll be Senior Day and the Cougars will recognize seniors Alston, Bell, Bauman and Micah Jones.
It's the second meeting between the Cougars and the Gamecocks. SIUE defeated Jacksonville State 51-47 on Jan. 12 in Alabama.
The eight-team OVC playoffs start next Wednesday at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., and continue through Saturday, March 9. The OVC tournament champion automatically advances to the NCAA Division I Championships.