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Keith Leads Cougars in Exhibition Victory

Mikia Keith
Mikia Keith

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Mikia Keith pointed the SIUE women's basketball team in the right direction, and the Cougars took their cue from her Friday at First Community Arena in the Vadalabene Center.

Keith scored the game's first five points and nine of the Cougars' first 17 as they built a 14-point lead to defeat Missouri S&T 63-47 in their lone exhibition game of the season. Keith, a 5-foot-4-inch sophomore point guard, tallied a game-high 14 points. She also had four assists as did teammate Mikala Hall.

"We really worked on coming out with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity," Keith said. "My job is to get the basketball to my teammates to score and to be a team leader."

Paula Buscher, the Cougars' eighth-year head coach, said Keith has a keen awareness of her role and responsibilities.

"She's a good leader. That's for sure, and she likes to play fast, which is a good thing," Buscher added. "What you see from her in practice, you also see from her in the game. She puts in her time to improve."

Freshman reserve Ajulu Thatha, a 6-2 forward, punched in 11 points, all in the second half. She also snagged five rebounds. Junior forward Allie Troeckler collected eight points and seven rebounds.

"Ajulu is a fun player and even though she is relatively new to the game, you are going to see her get better and better," Buscher said.  "And Allie is our utility player. She's like a nomad out there because she can play different positions."

No fewer than 10 players scored for the Cougars, who made 24 of 67 shots, including 5 of 17 from three-point land. They connected on 10 of 14 free throws and snared 45 rebounds, one more than the Miners.

"Overall, I'm pleased with the way we played," Buscher said. "We want to keep building on the good things. I liked the way we started the game, and that's so important."

Keith pointed out, "This team has a good work ethic, plays with a lot of heart and are quicker than we were last year."

SIUE built a 34-11 lead late in the first half before Missouri S&T scored the last 11 points of the second quarter to cut the Cougars' advantage to 34-22 at halftime. SIUE led by double digits the entire second half.

The Cougars officially open the 2019-20 season Tuesday when they welcome Quincy at 5:30 p.m.  Quincy, a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, was a former league rival of SIUE. The Cougars lead the series 36-13.