Salukis fall to Braves

By Gus Bode

Thursday’s game marked a return to an undesirable norm for the SIU women’s basketball team.

The Salukis lost to Bradley 60-48 Thursday at the SIU Arena, a loss coach Dana Eikenberg said was a result of missed free throws and layups ‘- just as SIU’s eight-game losing streak in December and January was.

SIU (6-13, 2-8 MVC) shot 50 percent from the free-throw line against the Braves, which Eikenberg said has developed into a mental issue for the Salukis.

Advertisement

‘Anytime your home team can’t shoot 50 percent from the free-throw line, you don’t deserve to win,’ Eikenberg said. ‘So I think free throws and missed layups were the name of the game.’

SIU trailed by 17 soon after the start of the second half, and fought back to eventually cut Bradley’s lead to eight with as little as 5 minutes, 17 seconds to play in the game.

Eikenberg praised the small flurry from the Salukis, their role in forcing Bradley into 22 turnovers and also freshman guard Alex Hart’s defense.

Hart, who scored 11 points, was SIU’s leading scorer in the game, but she also played well on a tough defensive assignment.

While Hart shot 2-of-14 from the field, Eikenberg said she did well in defending Bradley guard Michelle Lund, whose 41.6 percentage from the 3-point line is fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Lund, who also began the game averaging 10 points per contest, attempted zero shots and scored her lone point on a free throw.

‘I thought Alex Hart did a terrific job guarding her and really took her out,’ Eikenberg said. ‘So that was probably the bright spot of the game. That was one of the goals, to take out Lund, and we did.’

Advertisement

Eikenberg said the leadership from seniors Erica Smith and Jasmine Gibson was not present against Bradley (15-6, 6-4 MVC).

Smith scored nine points but only attempted five shots and pulled down just three rebounds, while Gibson scored 10 points on a paltry 5-for-14 shooting from the field on her birthday.

‘It really wasn’t anything we were thinking about,’ Gibson said. ‘We were just trying to get a win tonight.’

The Braves put a little distance between themselves and the Salukis with a 7-1 run that spanned 4:15 seconds of the first half.’ By the end of the stretch, Bradley had built a 9-8 lead into a 16-9 advantage.

Soon after, the Braves embarked on a 12-2 run to build a 28-14 lead before a pair of free throws by Hart put the run to a stop. Junior forward Karlee Myers also connected on a free throw 23 second after Hart went to the line, and 25 seconds later senior guard Kaci Bailey knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Salukis on a modest 5-1 run.

SIU went into the half trailing 32-19, a result of Bradley’s scoring runs and a 10-minute stretch during which the Salukis scored a mere five points.

‘I don’t think we had any spark,’ Eikenberg said of the first half.

When Bradley and SIU last met on Jan. 9 in Peoria, the Braves won the rebounding battle 47-30, and blocked three of the Salukis’ shot attempts en route to a 73-49 victory.

Bradley entered Thursday’s game as the Valley’s top shot-blocking team, averaging 5.6 per game. The Braves also began the game out-rebounding their opponents by an average on 7.8 per game.

On Thursday, Bradley blocked seven of SIU’s shot attempts, and pulled down 42 rebounds to the Salukis’ 27.

‘We’re not really sure sometimes,’ Eikenberg said. ‘We just kind of stand and we hope that we can get it instead of jumping up and being athletic, and trying to box out.’

The Salukis will complete their four-game home stand with a tilt against Northern Iowa (6-13, 4-5 MVC) at 2:05 p.m. Saturday at the SIU Arena.

The Panthers were at Evansville Thursday, and entered the game riding a four-game losing streak.

SIU suffered its third loss of its conference schedule Jan. 11 at Northern Iowa, when the Panthers won 54-41.

In that game Northern Iowa got 22 points off the bench from sophomore center Lizzie Boeck, and the Panthers bested the Salukis in the rebounding battle, 34-23.

‘Saturday will be again, another important test,’ Eikenberg said. ‘UNI’s done some nice things. They’ve got good balance as well, they’ve beaten some people probably no one expected them too. It’s a good team.’

Advertisement