The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars made a successful Ohio Valley Conference Tournament debut Wednesday with a 73-61 triumph over Tennessee State at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
Collinsville High School graduate Raven Berry led all players with 19 points and just missed her seventh straight double-double, finishing with nine rebounds. Berry shot 6-of-9 from the field, converted 7 of 9 from the free throw line, and added a career-high four blocks.
The Cougars (16-13) advance to play third-seeded Belmont in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Game time Thursday is 2 p.m.
Wednesday's win was SIUE's first in tournament play as a member of the OVC. It also was SIUE's first victory during the postseason since the 2000-2001 season.
"It's a historic win, but the job is not over yet," said Berry. "We knew coming in that we made history just by making the tournament. We made history again by winning the first game.
"We have another history to make tomorrow. It's day by day."
SIUE coach Paula Buscher watched her team play tight defense on Tennessee State, which ended its season with a 13-15 record. The Tigers shot 31 percent from the field (18-of-58).
"Hats off to Tennessee State," said Buscher. "Both times we've played them it's been a tough game. I'm really proud of our players for sticking with things, staying together, and finishing the game."
The Cougars shot 47.3 percent from the field (26-55). CoCo Moore shot 5-of-10 from the field and finished with 13 points. Althoff High graduate Jazmin Hill's two 3-pointers tied Teri Evans (1992-95) for second all-time in 3-pointers as she added 10 points for SIUE.
The top rebounding team in the OVC, SIUE only won the rebounding battle 40-38. However, SIUE took clear advantage of Tennessee State turnovers. The Tigers turned the ball over 23 times, and SIUE capitalized on it for 26 points.
Jasmin Shuler led TSU with 17 points, including three 3-pointers. Kesi Hess shot 3 of 13 from the field but was a perfect 7 of 7 from the free throw line, finishing with 14 points. Chelsea Hudson added 11 off the bench.
Two players from each team fouled out of the contest, and the physical game turned into SIUE's favor.
"I knew coming into the game that it was going to be very physical," Berry said. "Mentally, we prepared ourselves for that."
The Cougars now move forward to face off with Belmont, which is making its first-ever appearance in the OVC Tournament.
"It's going to be a tough battle. We're going to play our tails off for those 40 minutes. It's going to be more about staying mentally tough than anything," Buscher said.