The 2019-20 season marks the eighth season for Paula Buscher as the head coach of SIUE women’s basketball. She holds a 76-40 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play with a 108-107 overall record at SIUE.
Buscher has a long line of successful teams and players under her watch. Most recently, Sydney Bauman set the school record for blocks in a season (67), adding to her career record in the statistical category. Nakiah Bell also completed her collegiate career during the 2018-19 season with a team-leading 54 three-pointers and 79 assists.
During the 2017-18 season, SIUE advanced to the NCAA Division I postseason under Buscher, playing in the Women’s Basketball Invitational. It was SIUE’s second NCAA Division I postseason bid in program history. The 2017-18 season saw three players pass the prestigious 1,000-point barrier, including first team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection Donshel Beck, second team All-OVC pick Lauren White and Gwen Adams. The Cougars tied for second in league play in making its sixth straight appearance in the OVC Championships and fourth straight in the OVC semifinals.
Beck was tabbed a second team All-OVC selection during the 2016-17 season after averaging a team-high 14.6 points per game while Nakiah Bell landed a spot on the OVC All-Newcomer team after averaging 10.7 points per game.
Buscher's squad broke new ground during the 2015-16 campaign. Shronda Butts was named the OVC Player of the Year, a first for SIUE women's basketball. CoCo Moore was tabbed the Co-Defensive Player of the Year, also a program first. SIUE finished the season with 18 wins, including a 12-4 record in league play.
SIUE earned its highest-ever seed to the 2015 OVC Tournament with a No. 2 seed after finishing the regular season with a 13-3 mark in the OVC during the 2014-15 season. The Cougars had two players named All-OVC with Butts earning a first team selection and Tierny Austin collecting a second team nod. Butts also was selected as a member of the All-Newcomer team after averaging 15.6 points per game.
The Cougars won five of their last six conference games during the 2013-14 campaign. Under Buscher’s tutelage, Micah Jones was named to the OVC All-Newcomer Team while averaging 13.2 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game in conference play.
Buscher oversaw the final season of first team All-Conference selection Raven Berry, who averaged 14.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest during the 2012-13 season. Berry, who became the program’s all-time leader in rebounds (1,040), rebound average (8.8), and offensive rebounds (480), moved on to play professional basketball, moving on to play for the Lemvig Basketball Club in Denmark.
The fifth all-time head coach for the SIUE women’s basketball, Buscher inherited a program that went 18-12 overall and finished third in its first season of play in the OVC. During the 2011-12 season, the Cougars played in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, the University’s first NCAA Division I national postseason event.
Buscher came to SIUE after spending 12 seasons at Bradley University. She won 167 games for the Braves, ranking ninth most in Missouri Valley Conference history. Her 91 career conference victories were also ninth in Missouri Valley history.
Bradley boasted seven first team Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athletes, six CoSIDA Academic All-District selections, four first team All-MVC picks, two MVC Defensive Players of the Year, and one Prairie Farms/MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year during her time as head coach at Bradley.
The career record holder for victories for Bradley women’s basketball, Buscher rebuilt Bradley’s program that had toiled near the bottom of the league for years. Her 2008-09 squad set the school record for victories with 21.
Her teams advanced to the Women’s Basketball Invitational twice, including last season where the team fell in the second round to eventual champion Minnesota. The Braves’ WBI run included a 20-point come-from-behind victory over Tennessee Tech in the opening game of the tournament at Bradley. It was Bradley’s first postseason contest since the men’s team appeared in the 1982 NIT Championships.
Buscher led the Braves to their first-ever postseason bid during the 2009-10 season, where the Braves downed defending NCAA Tournament runner-up Louisville in the Cardinals’ final game at Freedom Hall. Louisville had entered the game having won nearly 85 percent of its home games at Freedom Hall. Buscher’s Braves would fall in the WBI quarterfinals with a loss to the College of Charleston.
She holds a career record of 318-333 that includes brief stints as head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato and Nebraska-Omaha. She was named one of Peoria’s “40 Leaders Under 40” in 2002 and was awarded the Exemplary Service Award from the Bradley Parents Association in 2001.
Buscher earned a bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University in 1986 after playing two seasons of basketball and softball for the Bears. She began her coaching career as a graduate assistant under Hall of Fame Coach Jill Hutchison at Illinois State.
After earning a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in athletic administration from Illinois State, Buscher spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Nebraska-Omaha (UNO). She left in 1997 to pursue her first head coaching position where she led Minnesota State-Mankato to the second biggest turnaround in NCAA Division II history.
She then spent two seasons back at Nebraska-Omaha as the program’s head coach before joining the Division I head coaching ranks at Bradley.
A native of Peoria, Buscher’s accomplishments as a player include a runner-up finish at the 1980-81 IHSA Class AA State Tournament for Peoria Richwoods High School. She played basketball and softball for Hall of Fame Coach Lorene Ramsey at Illinois Central College. She helped the basketball team to a fifth-place finish during the 1981-82 season and third during the 1982-83 season. During softball season, Buscher helped Illinois Central to the 1982 NJCAA national title and was inducted into the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 as a member of that championship team.