EDWARDSVILLE – UT Martin prevailed in a battle of long-distance shooting and defeated SIUE 82-72 in an Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball game Saturday at the Vadalabene Center.
The Skyhawks made 12 of 29 tries from 3-point range, 25 of 59 shots overall and sank 21 of 22 free throws to top the Cougars. UT Martin, getting a measure of revenge from a 70-68 overtime home loss to SIUE on Jan. 21, improved to 9-17 and 6-7. The Cougars dropped to 10-16 and 6-7.
"Give UT Martin some credit. They knocked down their shots," SIUE Head Coach Paula Buscher said. "But there were times I don't think we went out and had some great close-outs against them."
Five players scored in double figures for the Skyhawks and three of those five combined for all 12 of their 3-pointers. Jessy Ward led the way with 22 points; shooting 7 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 on 3-pointers. Teammate Myah Taylor connected for a trio of 3-pointers in her 19-point output. And all of Kendall Spray's 12 points came via four 3-pointers.
"We tried switching defenses on them and they made some good shots," Buscher said. "We didn't get enough defensive stops."
The Cougars made 8 of 22 shots from 3-point land, so the two teams combined for 20 of them, the most since SIUE and Northern Illinois strung together 21 treys on Dec. 16 in DeKalb.
Nakiah Bell led the Cougars with 18 points, including three from 3-point range. Amri Wilder scored a career-best 17 points, thanks most to five 3-pointers. Donshel Beck had 11 points and eight rebounds before she fouled out with 1:43 remaining. Sydney Bauman (11 rebounds and eight points) and Micah Jones (12 rebounds and eight points) also made key contributions.
"Amri did a great job from the 3-point line and knocked down some shots," Buscher said.
Beck and Lauren White, who fouled out with seven seconds to go, both where whistled for their fourth fouls late in the third quarter and that hampered the Cougars.
"Having Donshel and Lauren both in foul trouble hurt us," Buscher added.
UT Martin also benefited from an 11-0 spurt midway through the second quarter to grab a 27-18 advantage. The Skyhawks led 34-26 at half.
SIUE closed that gap to six points in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars could get no closer than 68-62 with 2:45 remaining. SIUE outrebounded UT Martin 50-33, but the Skyhawks' sizzling shooting made a difference.
"I thought we battled them on the boards and were locked in defensively in the first quarter when we held them to nine points," Buscher said. "Then they really made a push on us in their (25-point) second quarter.
The Cougars, who have three conference games remaining, including a home game Feb. 15 with Austin Peay, remain in the hunt for one of the eight OVC tournament berths.
"It's going to be a dogfight the rest of the way," Buscher said. "There's a cluster of teams trying to get into the conference tournament, so we have to keep fighting. We have to get back to our basics and play better defense. We also need to do better on each and every possession on offense."