Coach Paula Buscher and her Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women’s basketball team enjoy Nashville, Tenn. They hope to have an extended stay this week.
The third-seeded Cougars (17-12) will face sixth-seeded Southeast Missouri (15-14) in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday at Municipal Auditorium.
SIUE defeated the Redhawks twice in the regular season: 80-73 on Jan. 20 at Vadalabene Center in Edwardsville and 89-75 on Feb. 24 at Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
Another victory would advance SIUE into the semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday against second-seeded Belmont or seventh-seeded Tennessee State. The championship game is at noon Saturday.
To win a three-days-in-a-row tournament, you’ve got to get hot. ... It’s basically survive and advance. You’re not promised anything except the 40 minutes you have in front of you. I feel good about our chances, but we’re going to have to be ready to go out and put in a lot of work every game.
SIU Edwardsville women’s basketball coach Paula Buscher
“When we played at their place, we did a great job in the second quarter limiting them to five points,” Buscher said of a 27-5 bustout that gave the Cougars early control. “That was the difference in the game at their place. We played outstanding defense, we pressured the ball, we got out in the passing lanes and denied. We found a lot of success with that.
“We limited them to one-and-out scenarios and went on a nice, big run.”
Buscher has been around long enough to not anticipate similar circumstances.
“I don’t expect SEMO to have a quarter like that again,” she said. “The thing about SEMO is they play so tough. They’re hard-nosed; they play hard. So do we. That’s what makes this a fun game.”
Buscher said it’s a “wide-open” tournament, but she likes the Cougars’ chances.
“To win a three-days-in-a-row tournament, you’ve got to get hot,” she said. “You need a couple of players to be that ‘x’ factor. It’s basically survive and advance. You’re not promised anything except the 40 minutes you have in front of you. I feel good about our chances, but we’re going to have to be ready to go out and put in a lot of work every game.”
Scouting the Cougars
Cougars senior Shronda Butts had 26 points and five rebounds in the Feb. 24 meeting with SEMO and was one of four players in double figures. The 5-foot-7 Butts, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, is the Player of the Year Award in the OVC, averaging 21 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.1 steals. She has 47 3-pointers.
In a season that’s included a handful of injuries, Butts has been the stabilizer.
“If we’re struggling offensively, we can dial up a couple of plays for Shronda and she’ll open it up for us. There’s no doubt about it,” said Buscher, in her fourth season. “But if you go into a tournament like this and you’re the only player everyone’s keying on all the time, it makes it tough. ... Shronda really can set up other people as well.”
Donshel Beck (11.5 points), a 5-9 sophomore, and Gwen Adams (10.2), a 5-11 sophomore, also average in double figures for SIUE. CoCo Moore, a 5-7 senior, averages 9.8 points
“Donshel Beck has stepped in in these last seven or eight games and played extremely well,” Buscher said. “CoCo’s been playing well and Lauren White (a 5-8 sophomore) is getting back to playing the way she was before the (hand) injury. CoCo’s a player you have to respect. She’s got such great ability to get to the hole.
“We’ve got some other weapons. Sidney Smith (a 5-8 sophomore) is a tremendous 3-point shooter (59-for-148, 40 percent). Our (6-3) freshman, Sydney Bauman, is coming in and giving us some good minutes in the post.”
Buscher also pointed out the improved play of 5-8 freshman Amri Wilder.
SIUE is 3-3 since going on a season-best six-game winning streak from Jan. 14-30.
Scouting the Redhawks
Southeast Missouri, under first-year coach Rekha Patterson, is led by senior guard Olivia Hackmann (16.4 points), junior guard Brianna Mitchell (13.7 points) and senior forward Erin Bollmann (11.5 points). Hannah Noe leads the Redhawks with 41 3-pointers.
“They’ve got a level of toughness. They grind,” Buscher said. “They’re going to continue to come at us. I think we’ve got some advantages on the inside against them. I like our ability to score on their posts. We’ve got to make sure we do a great job attacking the basket. We need to get after them defensively. We don’t want them to get comfortable on the offensive end.”
The Redhawks have lost two in a row, five of six and seven of 10.