EDWARDSVILLE — Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women's basketball earned its first-ever spot in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Monday with a 75-69 victory over Tennessee State.
The win improved SIUE's record to 14-13 overall and 8-7 in the OVC. Tennessee State fell to 11-14 overall of 7-7 in the OVC.
"We could've helped ourselves a little bit down the stretch by making some more free throws, but this game was about toughness. Our team stuck together and communicated well down the stretch," said SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher.
SIUE's five seniors played their final game at the Vadalabene Center. Raven Berry, Kiara Conner, Courtney Kenner, Michaela Herrod and Brooke Smith were honored before the game.
The big scorer for the Cougars, however, was freshman Jessie Wendt. She doubled her previous career high with 24 points. Wendt was 8 of 13 from the field, 4 of 6 from three-point range, and 4 of 5 from the line.
"Jessie gave us great energy both offensively and defensively. She put the ball on the floor, made her threes, and gave the team a spark that everyone else fed off of," said Buscher.
Berry, a Collinsville graduate. made her chase to become SIUE women's basketball's first player to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds nearly a reality. She grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds and picked up her fifth straight double-double by scoring 15 points.
Sophomore Tierny Austin joined Wendt and Berry in double figures with 16 points and added a team-best six assists.
SIUE had to battle back from a double-digit deficit for the win. Tennessee State jumped out to a 26-13 lead early behind five three-pointers. Jasmin Shuler led the way for the Tigers with 25 points. Kesi Hess added 21. The Tigers finished the game with eight three-pointers.
The Cougars used a 16-2 run toward the late part of the first half and grabbed a short-lived lead before Tennessee State held a 35-32 edge by halftime.
"Tennessee State does a great job pressuring you and attacking," said Buscher. "It got us flustered a little bit in the first half, but we handled their pressure better in the second half."
Both Tennessee State and SIUE hit the offensive boards. The Tigers finished with 18 offensive rebounds but turned that into just four points on the second try. SIUE, meanwhile, scored 19 points off its 19 offensive rebounds.
The Cougars dominated rebounds overall with a season-high 54 caroms. Ranked No. 14 in the nation with a plus 8.3 rebound margin heading into the game, the Cougars outrebounded Tennessee State 54-36.
"Rebounding was huge for us. Early on we were allowing them to get some offensive rebounds and some put-backs. But our team did a great job battling back to control the boards," Buscher said.
SIUE shot 42 percent from the field and hit 28 of 45 from the free throw line. Tennessee State was 23 of 71 for 32.4 percent and 15 of 23 from the free throw line.
The Cougars now have one game left for the OVC regular season. SIUE travels to Charleston for a rematch against Eastern Illinois. Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Lantz Arena.
"Eastern Illinois will be a big game for us. I thought we played well the last time we played them, but they just finished a little better than us. Hopefully we can go to their place and see if we can get a different outcome," Buscher said.
SWIC 88, Lincoln Trail 46
BELLEVILLE -- Southwestern Illinois College sophomore guard Janelle Cannon lit up Lincoln Trail for 41 points Monday in the Blue Storm's victory.
Cannon, a University of Louisville recruit, mixed in six 3-pointers as she continued a recent torrid stretch of scoring. In her last three games, Cannon had 37 points against Vincennes, 31 against Shawnee and now 41 against Lincoln Trail.
SWIC (20-5) also got 18 points from Danielle Duncan and 10 points from Breana Baker.