The Billikens' 81-64 exhibition game victory over Missouri-St. Louis at Scottrade Center was "a typical exhibition game," the coach said afterward.
"I saw some things I liked," Gray-Miller said. "I saw a lot of things I didn't like — probably more things I didn't like than things I liked, but it's early."
The third-year coach had to feel good about sophomore guard Theresa Lisch's game-high 25 points, six assists and six steals to go along with five rebounds. Lisch made nine of the 20 shots she took in 29 minutes.
"Theresa has obviously taken her game to another level," Gray-Miller said.
The coach also had to be pleased with sophomore forward Maggie Hennegan's 12 points off the bench or sophomore guard Katie Paganelli's 11 points. Or the team-high seven rebounds grabbed by sophomore center Amanda Kemezys and freshman forward Hope Elam.
There were moments when the Billikens were poised to break the game open and run away with it. SLU opened the game with an 11-0 run and began the second half with a 7-2 run.
"When we get out in the passing lanes and when we deny and when we pressure the ball and when our help side is there and we force baseline, then we force shots or we get steals and then that is creating our offense," Gray-Miller said. "We had a lot of fastbreak points that came directly from our defense. That's how I want to play. That's ultimately what we're building our program toward."
"I think our offense is going to be predicated on our defense," Lisch said. "That's what we're hoping. We want to be a transition team this year and really push the ball."
There were also times when the visiting Tritons, who never led in the game, were able to trim the deficit to the point where things probably started to feel uncomfortable on the home bench.
"I did not like the unforced turnovers," said Gray-Miller, who started one senior (point guard Hayley Leake) and four sophomores. "We had way too many of those, just stupid things that were really unnecessary. I did not like our lack of defensive intensity and pressure at times."
"I think with a young group that is to be expected, following unforced turnovers and them fading in and out. But I can't use that as an excuse because this is the team that we've got. Those young kids that are freshmen and sophomores are going to play."
The Billikens committed 24 turnovers, which UMSL turned into 23 points. UMSL junior forward Mary Slaughter came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, most of which came in the paint, and SLU didn't have an answer for her on the defensive end.
Gray-Miller was glad she got a look at her two freshmen, Elam and Lauren Woods, in game action against a new opponent.
"These freshmen are typical freshmen," Gray-Miller said. "My freshmen last year were not typical freshmen. I think I got a little spoiled. Lauren and Hope are your typical freshmen. They are talented and they will play some minutes, but they are not going to set the basketball world on fire this year.
Woods was the first freshman to get in the game and got her first basket with 12 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the first half off a nifty feed from Lisch. She finished with five points and three rebounds in 20 minutes.
Elam's first touch resulted in a turnover. The freshman from Champaign, Ill., had two inside shots roll out in the first half, and she finished with three points to go along with her seven rebounds in 14 minutes.
"They both have a tremendous learning curve ahead of them," Gray-Miller said. "I did see some things that I really liked. Lauren I think is going to be a very good defensive player for us. I think Hope will be a pretty darn good rebounder for us. They both have to grow up quick because they're in my top nine, they are in my rotation right now."
The Billikens return to the court for their final exhibition game against Missouri Baptist on Nov. 7 and open the regular season at home against Hampton University on Nov. 11.
SLU Women Defeat UMSL In Exhibition
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