UPDATE: SIUE will be the No. 7 seed for the OVC Tournament and will play sixth-seeded Jacksonville State Wednesday in a 2 p.m. contest. Click on the complete bracket above.
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – SIUE women’s basketball played like there may not be next game and emerged with a 67-58 victory over Eastern Illinois Saturday at the Vadalabene Center.
The Cougars, winners of six of their last seven games, clinched a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for the weekend and took second place in the OVC West Division with a 7-9 record in league play and an 11-18 record overall.
SIUE celebrated Senior Day with Ashley Capotosto, Valerie Finnin, and Jazmin Hill making their final appearance on their home court. All three came off to a standing ovation in the final seconds of the game.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent this season, but we got on a roll late,” said SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher. “I credit that to our players, and especially our seniors who didn’t want their season to end early.”
All three also played key roles in the Cougars’ victory. Capotosto scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Finnin hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with six points. Hill added two three-pointers and scored 12 points for the Cougars off the bench.
“We came out in the second half just knowing that we had to keep our energy and momentum,” said Capotosto. “We needed to execute our game plan, and that’s what we did.”
Micah Jones led all players with 17 points, and the Cougar freshman added a team-best three assists. CoCo Moore, playing in her first game since the UT Martin win, shot 5 of 7 from the field and finished with 11 points.
Eastern Illinois, 12-15 overall and 7-9 in the OVC, exchanged leads with SIUE 13 times during the game and was tied with the Cougars six times.
“We were going back and forth scoring with them, but we needed to step up and make some stops,” said Buscher. “That was really important for us down the stretch.”
Four EIU players scored double figures, including 16 from Jordyne Crunk, 14 from Sabina Oroszova, and 10 each by Morgan Palombizio and Erica Brown.
“I feel like it’s always a battle against Eastern Illinois,” said Hill. “I don’t know what it is, but we just go at it every time we play each other. It’s fun to play in that atmosphere.”
SIUE dominated the boards with a 44-32 edge over the Panthers. The Cougars also used 17 offensive boards for 23 second-chance points.
“You can see the energy we had just by looking at the offensive boards,” said Buscher. “That’s a stat that I think shows who wants it more. We had some kids who were aggressive and really went after it, especially in the second half.”
The Cougars took control in the final five minutes of the game. Tied 53-53, Moore worked the baseline for a layup with 4:15 to go, and SIUE didn’t look back.
SIUE outscored the Panthers 14-5 over the final 4 ½ minutes, much of it on free throws from Jones, Hill, and Capotosto.
SIUE will be making its second straight appearance in the OVC Tournament.
“This is March. If you win, you keep going. If you lose, you go home. That’s what it’s all about and that’s why you play this game,” Buscher said.