NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The SIUE women's basketball team won its third straight game Saturday with a 74-66 triumph over Tennessee State at the Gentry Center.
"We played gritty and did enough to win," said SIUE coach Paula Buscher.
The victory kept the Cougars in the hunt for one of the eight spots in next month's Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. SIUE, 6-9 in OVC play and 10-18 overall, have one more game left before the field is set, a Senior Day matchup at the Vadalabene Center against Eastern Illinois next Saturday at 1 p.m.
Buscher said her team has talked about what it might take to advance to the OVC Tournament.
"We're only able to control what is in front of us," she said. SIUE has won five of its last six games.
Four players scored in double figures Saturday, and SIUE shot a season-best 56.5 percent from the field against the Blue Tigers, who dropped to 7-7 in the OVC and 10-17 overall.
"We shot the ball extremely well in the first half. We did a good job of hitting the cutters and hitting the open shots," said Buscher.
Tierny Austin came off the bench and led the Cougars in scoring with 15 points. Jazmin Hill also came off the bench to add 10 points.
Valerie Finnin and Micah Jones both started for the Cougars and finished with 11 points each. Jones recorded her third double-double of the season by adding a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Cougars did it all with two players fouling out and two more finishing the game with four fouls.
"We had so many people step up tonight because we were in foul trouble," said Buscher.
It was the first time in three tries that SIUE has won at the Gentry Center. The Cougars have now won the last four meetings against Tennessee State.
SIUE set the tone early against Tennessee State, shooting 14 of 21 from the field in the first half. The Cougars opened up a 10-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game. The lead swelled to 14 points at 26-12 on a jumper by Hill.
Buscher praised the players for working within the game plan and executing it from the opening tip.
"We've had our share of slow starts this season." Buscher said. "We talk all the time about how we need to get good starts so that we're playing ahead rather than playing from behind."
Tennessee State would fight back to cut the lead to 36-32 by halftime. Brianna Lawrence's trio of three-pointers kept the Blue Tigers within distance.
The Blue Tigers cut the lead to one in the opening seconds of the second half on the fourth three-pointer of the game from Lawrence. Tennessee State would take its only outright lead of the second half (45-44) on a three-pointer by Jemilah Leonard with 15:10 to play.
Lawrence finished with 13 points overall and was one of four players in double figures for Tennessee State. Chelsea Hudson led TSU with 16 points followed by 14 from Jayda Johnson and 11 from Rachel Allen.
The Cougars would answer the call in the second half behind a defense that allowed Tennessee State to shoot just better than 30 percent from the field.
Austin led the Cougars down the stretch offensively, scoring 11 of her 15 points in the second half.