ST. LOUIS - Courtney Webb registered 16 points and a career-high eight rebounds to lead Saint Louis to a 55-44 victory over Western Illinois in the Billikens' home opener Saturday afternoon at Chaifetz Arena.
Webb tied her career high of four 3-pointers (4-of-6), all in the first half, and established a career best with four offensive rebounds. She added two assists and a steal.
Lorreal Jones had 12 points (5-of-9 field goals) and seven rebounds, while Mallory Eggert tallied 11 points (5-of-8 field goals) and seven boards (four offensive).
Jacy Bradley led all players with six assists and three steals and tacked on six points and four rebounds. Desirae Ball contributed eight points, five rebounds and four assists.
Ashley Luke led Western Illinois (1-4) with six points and six rebounds. Saint Louis held WIU's top three scorers - Saule Kontautaite (13.3 ppg), Charnelle Reed (13.0 ppg) and Michelle Maher (12.8 ppg) - to four, four and five points, respectively. In addition, the Leathernecks converted just 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) from beyond the arc after averaging 10 treys and shooting 39 percent from long range in their first four outings.
The Billikens (2-3) earned a 36-24 rebounding advantage, marking the fourth time in five games they have won the battle of the boards. SLU shot a solid 46.9 percent from the floor, including 54.2 percent in the second half, while limiting Western Illinois to 38 percent.
"We showed vast improvement today," head coach Lisa Stone said. "We lacked energy to start the game, but I thought we responded well with a lot of defensive energy after halftime. We put the petal to the medal and had a nice 5-0 run to start the second half.
"It's good to improve from the first half to the second half, and we had some really good things happen in the second half. We played better as a unit, we didn't panic as much. We got on the glass better and had only six turnovers.
"Western came in averaging 67 points and we held them to 44," Stone said. "That's two games in a row we've held our opponent under 50 points. I'm proud that we allowed their leading scorer only four points.
"We're growing, we're getting better. Every win is a big one for us. It's important to get our team to believe that defense and taking care of the ball are the things that will win games, and we took a nice step forward in that regard today."
Western scored first, but the 2-0 lead was its only advantage. Webb hit her first triple on SLU's next possession, triggering a 14-2 spurt that put the Bills on top 14-4. Webb netted eight of the 14 points, including a second 3-pointer.
An 11-5 run allowed WIU to narrow the SLU lead to 19-15, but the Billikens maintained control and took a 25-19 edge to the locker room.
Saint Louis struck quickly in the second half, using a Bradley 3-pointer and two Jones free throws for a 30-19 lead.
However, it took a while for the Billikens to put the game away. Western whittled the lead to 36-30 at the 12:30 mark and trailed 40-33 after Maher hit a 3-pointer with 10:21 remaining.
A basket by Jones and two by Eggert increased the margin to 11, 46-35, with 8:07 to go. Western answered with a Rebecca Henricson trey, and it was 46-38 SLU with 6:30 left.
The Leathernecks forced a turnover on SLU's next possession but did not score. The Billikens took advantage and went on a 9-0 run, with buckets by Eggert, Denisha Womack, Bradley (three-point play) and Jones giving Saint Louis its largest lead, 55-38, with 3:28 to play.The Billikens host Indiana State Thursday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m.