Saluki women fall just short to Missouri State 70-68


Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibbsphotography

Jaidynn Mason (22) guards Paige Rocca (22) of Missouri State as she follows her down the court Feb. 01, 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale Ill.

Southern Illinois women’s basketball (7-13, 4-7) dropped its seventh game in eight tries on Wednesday, in a one-possession loss to the Valley’s third best team in the Missouri State Lady Bears (13-7, 8-3).

Unlike their matchup in January, which saw the Bears crush Southern with a huge third quarter to give them a lopsided 21-point victory, Wednesday’s game was close from wire to wire, with neither team getting a lead larger than eight points.

In fact, the teams were identical in field goal percentage in the first half, shooting 11-for-29 from the field and each making two three-pointers.


“Particularly in the first half, I thought our defense was very solid. Extremely solid,” head coach Kelly Bond-White said. “I was proud of our resolve. We tried to keep it simple.”

The only real runs in the game came in the second quarter, when the Salukis got on a 9-0 stretch to build their largest lead of the night (six points) before the Bears came right back and took a lead of their own with a 12-0 run. Aside from that span, both teams seemed to match each other blow-for-blow.

“That’s the resiliency that I’m proud of,” Bond-White said. “Normally, we would let that get to us, but our kids did battle.”

Jaidynn Mason (22) dribbles the ball behind her legs while she stops on the three looking for the next play Feb. 01, 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale Ill. (Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibbsphotography)

Ashley Jones led her game in scoring with 23 points on 10-for-24 shooting, including 2-for-5 from the three-point line. She also racked up seven rebounds, a team high.

Following Jones on the stat sheet was Shemera Williams, who finished with 14 points. Nine of those points came from the charity stripe, where she contributed much of the Salukis’ 18-for-24 performance on Wednesday.

“I’m proud of our attempts of getting to the line,” Bond-White said. “Shemera did a good job of attacking. That’s a point of emphasis.”

Southern won the turnover battle, forcing 21 while committing just 17. This advantage gave them a 21-13 lead in points off turnovers. However, it was counterbalanced by allowing too many offensive rebounds, and in turn, second chance points. Missouri State pulled down 17 such boards, converting them for 14 points.


Jaidynn Mason (22) shoots infront of the three against the opposing Missouri State Feb. 01, 2023 at Banterra Center in Carbondale Ill. (Lylee Gibbs @lyleegibbsphotography)

The third quarter proved to be a struggle for Southern, which shot 1-for-9 coming out of the break. However, going 6-for-8 from the free throw line was enough to keep the Salukis within striking distance during their cold streak.

While they were unable to pull out the victory, SIU managed to keep competitive for all four quarters, and come within a play or two of pulling off the upset.

“I do want our kids to acknowledge that we’re getting better,” Bond-White said. “But my expectations aren’t gonna change because I know what we’re capable of. I’m gonna keep pushing and pulling it out of them.”

The outlook is much better coming out of Wednesday night than it was just a week ago, when Southern gave up a 16-0 run to Drake to start the fourth quarter in a game where it was leading entering the period. After the following game, a loss to Northern Iowa on Saturday, Bond-White promised to have her team practicing defense and free throws at 6 a.m., something she called the “Breakfast Club”.

That effort seems to have benefitted the Salukis, having given up their fewest points since Jan. 14 in their first game back. Bond-White says that they will continue to push that program, and including film room sessions to keep players accountable on the road to improvement.

“I think we’re learning from the film,” Bond-White said. “Even thought they don’t like it, I think we’re learning from the film, and I think they’re understanding a little bit more.”

Although there is still work to be done, the women’s team showed that it has the ability to go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams the conference has to offer. Missouri State has made three-straight NCAA Tournaments dating back to 2019.

“It’s February now,” Bond-White said. “And this is where we’re moving towards trying to play some of our best ball.”

The Salukis will wrap up their four-game homestand on Saturday, when they take on Valparaiso (4-16, 2-9) at the Banterra Center.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrandynWilcoxen.

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