Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women’s basketball sent a shockwave through the Ohio Valley Conference Saturday with a 65-62 victory over the University of Tennessee Martin at the Vadalabene Center.
It was the first OVC loss of the season for the Skyhawks, which fell to 17-7 overall and 10-1 in conference play. SIUE improved to 7-17 overall and 3-8 in the OVC.
“The players deserve all the credit for this win,” said SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher. “UT Martin is a team who lit us up for 111 points just two weeks ago, and today we held them to 62. That’s our players buying in, being gritty, and getting after it.”
Ashley Capotosto led four SIUE players in double figures with a career-high 14 points. She shot 5-7 from the field and was one shy of a double-double with nine rebounds.
The Cougars, who have won four of the last six meetings with the Skyhawks, shut down the UT Martin offense that had averaged 82 points per game overall and 93 points in its first 10 OVC games of the season. UT Martin had scored in triple digits in four of its last five contests.
“This is a great win for us, especially with how our season has been going,” said SIUE senior guard Valerie Finnin. “It’s an awesome feeling, and this gets us going for the rest of the season.”
SIUE’s offense went toe to toe against the Skyhawks. CoCo Moore scored 12. Micah Jones pumped in 10 and Allyssa Decker added 10.
“I thought ‘Deck’ played the best game she’s played all year,” said Buscher. “We didn’t need everyone to play super, but we needed everyone to play better than we have been lately. I thought our players did that tonight. They get all the credit.”
UT Martin’s shooting woes began early. The Skyhawks hit just 1-15 3-pointers in the first half and shot 10-39 overall in the first half. UT Martin held just a slim 25-22 lead at halftime with 15 of its points coming from seniors Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome.
“Butler is tough,” said Finnin. “She’s the best guard in the league, in my opinion. I just stayed home defending her and played my heart out.”
Newsome led the Skyhawks with 18 points. Ashia Jones posted a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Butler finished with 12 points and Megan White scored 11 behind three second-half 3-pointers.
SIUE’s bench proved to be the difference, outscoring the Skyhawks 24-4. Finnin hit a pair of key 3-pointers in the second half and finished with eight points.
“I think defense won this game for us,” said Finnin. “We knew how important defense would be tonight and we just dug in. Everybody played hard.”
The game went back and forth with nine ties and seven lead changes.
Newsome hit a layup for UT Martin with 1:41 to play that tied the game for the final time at 61-61.
Capotosto put the Cougars up by two with a layup just 15 seconds later. The basket came off a strong interior pass from Micah Jones.
UT Martin struggled at the free throw line late, hitting just 1-4. Karisma Tyson made the only free throw, with 49 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Micah Jones hit a layup off a pass from Finnin with 27 seconds remaining.
White missed UT Martin’s final shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the corner. Alexis Chappelle grabbed the rebound with two seconds left and was fouled. After a missed free throw, Chappelle nearly grabbed her own rebound as time expired.
“I’m really proud of our effort and I’m very excited for our players,” Buscher said. “It’s been a tough season. We talked before the game about how we aren’t supposed to win on paper but that’s why you play the game.”
SIUE now looks forward to Monday and a 7 p.m. matchup at the Vadalabene Center against Southeast Missouri.
“If knocking off the top team in the conference doesn’t give us some confidence, I don’t know what will,” Buscher added. “I’ll let them enjoy this win tonight then it’s on to the next one.”