Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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“I’ve asked them to give their heart:” Banged-up Salukis still fighting heading into postseason

Adrianna+Katcher+%2824%29+and+Sydney+Prochaska+%283%29+hug+after+the+SIU+vs.+Bradley+University+game+Wednesday+March+2%2C+2024+at+the+Banterra+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+
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Adrianna Katcher (24) and Sydney Prochaska (3) hug after the SIU vs. Bradley University game Wednesday March 2, 2024 at the Banterra Center in Carbondale, Illinois.

The SIU women’s basketball team isn’t going to let their season end without a fight.

“The biggest thing I want them to do is compete,” head coach Kelly-Bond-White said. “When we walk into that locker room, our gas tank should be on E.”

The Salukis, who have been bitten hard by the injury bug, are limping into Hoops in the Heartland, the Missouri Valley Conference’s conference tournament for women’s basketball. Several players are nursing injuries, while at least one has been lost for the remainder of the year.

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“We’ve had two surgeries this week, and a docket of a couple more later on. It’s just part of the game, the adversity that you hit,” Bond-White said.

These injuries have forced the coaching staff to have to constantly integrate different pieces into the rotation on a nightly basis and have led to many different lineups being on the floor this year. The Salukis have had 14 unique starting lineups in 27 games, and 10 different players have started games. 

Bond-White isn’t deterred by the challenges, saying, “as long as I’ve got seven, we can make something happen.”

Upperclassmen Quierra Love and Laniah Randle are the only players to start every game this season. And while it may be easy to blame some of the struggles on a revolving door of lineups, Love refuses to do so.

“We all play together in practice, we switch it up, so we get some time with each other in different rotations, different lineups. We just have a great team where everyone is ready to step up at any given time,” Love said.

Despite several losses and a seemingly ever-growing injury report, Bond-White’s team has still competed hard in their last few games, including taking the fourth-place team in the Valley, Illinois State, into overtime.  

One sign that they aren’t giving up is their defense. SIU ranks in the top half of the Valley in scoring defense, giving up only 69.89 points per game. 

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“The heart of our program starts on defense,” Bond-White said, “I looked around the league and I didn’t see people that were on the line, up the line, creating chaos, disrupting. That’s what we want to do.”

The Dawgs’ defense against the three has also been quite good, holding opponents to only 30% shooting. Bond-White says that strong perimeter defense, and limiting the three, is a crucial part of her scheme.

“With us not having the height this year, we’ve played post defense with our guards, so we’ve tried to take vision away… we have to protect our post,” Bond-White said. 

Sophomore guard Jaidynn Mason says that the need for disruption is stressed constantly by the coaching staff.

“There’s a very high expectation for the guards on this team,” Mason said.

This style of defense also shows in another statistical category: steals. The Salukis lead the MVC in steals per game with 11.33, nearly two more than the next-best team. It certainly helps that three of the top five players in the Valley, Love, Mason, and Randle, play for SIU and average over two per game. 

“It shows the trust that they have in our system,” Bond-White said, “We’re in one of the best offensive conferences in the country… We knew that we had to let people not do what they were comfortable doing. And when you look at our kids’ commitment to that, that’s how we’re able to do it.”

While stealing the ball and earning deflections, another stat tracked by the coaching staff to help show players their impact on the game is done on the court. Love is also quick to credit assistant coach Jordan Jones for her role in coaching up the players and putting them in opportunities to get opportunities for steals. 

“Shoutout to our defensive coordinator, coach Jordan Jones, because since this summer, we have been going hard on the defensive end, watching a lot of film, and she’s come up with some great, great things for us, and it’s working out for us,” Love said.

Mason also has high praise for Jones.

“She’s on us on defense every practice, she makes sure we’re in every gap,” Mason said.  

While the Dawgs’ haven’t seen many regular season tilts fall their way, that all goes out the window when the postseason starts. As it stands on March 1, the Salukis will play UIC, who they will have played in their final game of the season. Their first matchup ended in a down-to-the-wire seven point UIC win.

Love, who poured in 15 points in that game, said, “You might have beaten a team twice in the regular season, and then an upset occurs.”

The conference tournament, played at a neutral site in Moline, IL, can also represent a fun departure from the normal season format, where crowds are heavily influenced by their home crowds. Love, who has played in the tournament three times, is looking forward to getting to go back and savor the flavor of intense clashes.

“My favorite part is just the competition, how hard everyone plays,” Love said, “it’s just a great atmosphere, there’s a lot of fans. It’s just a great time.”

The coaching staff has a few more tricks up their sleeve to finish out the season too.

“What you’ll see is us changing defenses, see us doing things a little differently to keep people off balance and protect our limited number in size,” Bond-White said. 

Hoops in the Heartland will begin at Vibrant Arena in Moline, Illinois, on March 14. Tickets are available on MVC-sports.com. 

Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, be sure to follow The Daily Egyptian on Facebook and @dailyegyptian on X.

 

Social media tag: Miss out on the SIU women’s basketball season? Read about how SIU’s season has gone and how they plan to tackle the MVC conference tournament, Hoops in the Heartland.



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