SIU Women’s Basketball beats University of Illinois in an In-State Matchup

By Cole Daily, Staff Reporter

The Salukis took on the Illinois Fighting Illini on Sunday, Dec. 19 in an inner-state matchup that featured two teams trying to improve from .500 on the season. Southern Illinois came out on top, 66-51.

Head coach Cindy Stein said this win will serve as a great template for how her Salukis want to play games the rest of the season.

“When your team is able to succeed in doing the things you have been preaching about all along that’s gonna be huge [for the team],” Stein said.

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The Fighting Illini scored the first points of the game. They put four points on the board before the Salukis had a chance to score within the first two minutes of the first quarter.

After a mid-range jumper from senior forward Mackenzie Silvey, it was all Salukis for the rest of the quarter.

They countered the Fighting Illini with 11 straight points, including a three-pointer from Silvey and a turn-around hook shot from senior center Gabby Walker. This helped the Salukis earn an 11-4 lead by the first media timeout at 4:08 left in the first.

The Salukis pounced on the Illini right after the break, as senior forward Payton McCallister knocked down a three-pointer and a layup was scored by freshman forward Laniah Randle. This 16-4 lead forced Illinois to take a timeout with 1:54 left in the first quarter.

The final score at the end of the first quarter was 18-8, with the Salukis on top.

The second quarter was more of the same for SIU. They maintained their large lead for the majority of the quarter.

They extended their lead after Randle scored some second-chance points after an offensive rebound. She also scored on a fastbreak layup to push the Salukis lead to 15. Thanks to Randle, the Salukis had a 33-18 lead with 4:33 left in the second quarter.

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U of I lit a small spark for themselves after freshman guard Jayla Oden knocked down an and-one three pointer with a minute and a half left in the second quarter.

Senior guard Caitlin Link answered with a three of her own to regain the lead with 32 seconds left in the half. This meant the Salukis led 37-22 by halftime.

Walker scored the first points of the second half after cleaning up a missed free throw from senior center Abby Brockmeyer.

Illinois went on a run that forced Stein to call a timeout with 6:34 left in the third quarter. The Salukis still maintained a 12-point lead, 41-29.

Silvey scored six straight points for the Salukis out of the break to regain SIU’s lead, 47-31. She had managed to score 17 points with 4:18 left in the third quarter.

“Mack (Silvey) played really great tonight. Her ability to bring the ball up, her ability to play any position on the floor, it really gives us a lot of versatility,” Stein said.

Brockmeyer managed to score a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter to put the Salukis up 55-37.

The Salukis gained their first 20-point lead of the game at 5:08 left in the fourth after a fadeaway bank shot from Brockmeyer. She was followed by yet another layup from Randle.

These two plays meant the Salukis led 61-41 with 4:35 left in the game, at the final media timeout of the contest.

SIU continued to put the pressure on, where they finished the job, winning the game 66-51. This is the Salukis first win over the Fighting Illini since 1993.

“That is my alma mater. But we have played them plenty of times and they have beat my butt. It felt nice to get them this time,” Stein said.

Silvey and Walker led the way for the Salukis in this game. Silvey had 19 points and two steals while Walker had 17 points and 9 rebounds. Randle provided important assistance off the bench, with ten points and five rebounds.

Stein said this win showed the versatility of her team as a whole. The Salukis have a lot of potential and can show up in big games when they need to.

“Our kids did a great job of keeping their composure. They were getting rebounds when we needed them [and] knocking down shots when we needed them,” Stein said, “Our experience was definitely a big plus.”

SIU will play their next game on Thursday, Dec. 22, against Indiana University. The game will be played in Bloomington, Indiana at noon.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de

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