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SIUE Outpaces Purple Aces

Ajulu Thatha
Ajulu Thatha

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Balanced scoring made the difference as the SIUE Cougars posted their first win of the season Wednesday at the First Community Arena in the Vadalabene Center.

SIUE wome's basketball had five players reach double figures as it defeated Evansville 85-74 to improve to 1-2. The Purple Aces also are 1-2.

"I'm proud of our effort, and we're getting a little bit better," SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said. "We looked for each other more, shared the ball better and really adjusted to different things."

Just about everybody make vital contributions. Freshman Mikayla Kinnard led the way with 15 points and five assists. Allie Troeckler collected 14 points and nine rebounds. Zaria Whitlock scored a career-best 13 points, and Mikia Kieth added a career-high 13 points.

Freshman Ajulua Thatha punched in 13 points and handed out five assists. Brian Stallworth (eight points) and Christen King (seven points and seven rebounds) also added to the cause.

"We played together and a lot better tonight," Troeckler said. "We focused a lot on communication, and we tweaked our defense. Coach challenged us, and we came out with a lot of fight."

The Cougars' defense frustrated the Purple Aces in the first half, grabbing a 46-36 lead. They held Evansville's top scorer, Abby Feit, who was averaging 21 points per game, scoreless the first half. Feit finished with 10 points.

"We tweaked a few things on both offense and defense," Buscher said. "I think our defense gave us a lot of offense and then we weren't standing around on offense. We have a good offensive squad with a lot of different weapons."

Thatha, a freshman and one of those weapons, came to the Cougars' rescue after Evansville trimmed SIUE's lead to 75-70 with 3:13 to play. She banked in a 3-point shot and then took a charging foul to thwart the Purple Aces' comeback.

"I thought I played pretty well," Thatha said. "My teammates worked well in getting the ball to me, and I was able to get open."

Buscher noted, "Both Allie and Ajulu moved well, and they were sharing the basketball."

The Cougars saw a sense of urgency in the Evansville game.

"We were really disappointed after our last game," Buscher said, "But we came back Monday and Tuesday and had good practices. I thought if that happened, we would be fine and we would continue to push and play hard. We bounced back and got better and we want to continue to get better."

The Cougars made 29 of 65 shots, including 8 of 21 from 3-point land. They converted 19 of 25 free throws and outrebounds Evansville 42-38.

SIUE is back in action Sunday against Nebraska in a 2 p.m. start. The Cougars return home next Wednesday for a 7 p.m. game with local rival Saint Louis and followed by Missouri the following Sunday.

"We will be playing three teams that are playing extremely well," Buscher said. "But that's part of the college experience. You want to play tough people. The way I look at it is that it's a great opportunity for us."