BELLEVILLE — If the Vincennes University Trailblazers wanted to send a message, they did Saturday at Southwestern Illinois College.
Over and over again.
Sophomore guard Devin Foster scored 22 points, while former Springfield High School standout Willie Wiley added 19 points as Vincennes routed the Blue Storm 83-55 in a Great Rivers Athletic Conference game.
The defending NJCAA Region 24 champions, Vincennes wasted little time in taking command against a struggling Blue Storm squad.
With Foster scoring 11 points and Wiley, a 6-foot-7 forward adding 10, the Trailblazers jumped out to an early 12-point lead and owned a 41-26 advantage at halftime.
SWIC (9-6) cut its deficit to 11 points early in the second half on baskets by Vashawn Ruffin and Romondo Ray, but a 12-2 spurt by the Trailblazers all but sealed the Blue Storm's fate.
Once 8-1, SWIC has dropped five of its last six games and three in a row. In those three games, SWIC has given up 93, 90 and 83 points.
"We've got about four guys who get what we're trying to do right now,'' Blue Storm coach Jay Harrington said. "It's also January and the freshman, who are maybe a little bruised up and tired, haven't found a way to fight through it.
"Fundamentally we're not very good on defense right now. Vincennes is a good team, but they were better last year. They are just a very fundamentally sound basketball team and they really took it to us today."
Ray and sophomore Brandon Book scored 12 points to lead SWIC, while Ruffin added 10.
SWIC 64, Vincennes 60
Getting an emotional lift from a questionable call, the Blue Storm (9-1) played well down the stretch and went on to upset the nation's 15th-ranked team.
Trailing by six points midway through the second half, a situation occurred where two referees made different calls on the same play--one calling a charge on Vincennes, while the others ruled it a blocking foul on SWIC.
The call, which eventually went in favor of Vincennes, ignited both Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger and the Blue Storm.
"During the time-out after the play, I was still mad. But the girls told me, 'hey coach' it's OK. We've got it,'' Juenger said. "After the game I apologized to them (the team). But that seemed to be the turning point.
"We made all the plays down the stretch. I was a little worried about this game, because we really hadn't played a lot of good teams. But beating a ranked team like Vincennes, it's a huge victory for this team and these kids.''
Former Belleville West standout Erika McCaster, making just her second start after transferring and sitting out the first semester, led SWIC with 22 points. But it was a team effort.
Sophomores Breana Baker and Mone'y Black combined for 21 points and helped the Blue Storm hold its own on the backboards and in the post.
Point guard LaTeesa Deloach added 11 points and made impressive back-to-back passes to Black for layups late in the second half. She also combined with McCaster to hit four free throws in the closing minute to seal the win.
Vincennes falls to 12-4 for the season.
"'T' (Deloach) 'made some plays down the stretch which were key and Erika (McCaster) has shown that she can play a little bit. Mone'y and Bre (Baker) also did a great for us. Like I said, this is a big win.''