Women’s basketball struggling with injuries

By Gus Bode

With three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference road games on deck, the SIU women’s basketball team is feeling the pressure.

The Salukis (7-9, 3-3 MVC) have already been without junior forward Jasmine Gibson since Jan. 5. Now, freshmen backcourt members Ellen Young and Tanaeya Worden are walking around practice with a protective boot to prevent serious injury, lessening options for a team already lacking key depth for a conference run.

Coach Dana Eikenberg said she isn’t sure about the freshmen duo playing this weekend against Evansville.

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“We’re trying to keep multiple stress fractures from occurring,” Eikenberg said.

The offense could struggle if Young and Worden sit out. The duo combined to average 20.6 points per game.

Fellow freshmen Paris Campbell and Katrina Swingler will likely take those minutes if necessary with SIU having to work with a seven-woman rotation.

Swingler contributed 10 points off the bench in Sunday’s 75-74 overtime win against Creighton.

The scoring burden could also be increased on senior guards Jayme Sweere and Erin Pauk.

Sweere, fresh off hitting the game winner against the Blue Jays, could be looked upon to increase her 13.4 points per game average.

The Springfield, Mo., native has been thrust into the spotlight this season and was expected to fill the void left by graduated leading scorer Carlai Moore.

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Though her leadership has been called into question and drawn the ire of Eikenberg, Sweere said she’s glad she followed her coach from Missouri-Kansas City to SIU when Eikenberg took the job in 2004.

“I grew up watching the Valley living in Springfield and I wanted to play a in bigger conference than the one I was in,” Sweere said. “I wanted to live in a college town and I wanted to help rebuild a program and win championships.”

Sweere wasn’t alone, though. Pauk also followed Eikenberg and Sweere.

Pauk, who was in and out of the starting lineup during the 2006 to 2007 season, has solidified her spot in the starting five this season.

While Pauk only averages 5.7 points per game, her 17 points and 37 minutes against Creighton Sunday offset some of the injury issues on the team and the 5-of-15 shooting night from Sweere.

On top of taking on a more prominent role on offense, Pauk has also been asked to learn the 2-3 zone after SIU primarily used a man-to-man defense in the 2006-07 season.

Pauk said it wasn’t Eikenberg’s decision for her and Sweere to transfer to SIU.

“We ran through different things for ourselves and what we thought was best for us and we ultimately had to make that decision for ourselves,” Pauk said. “There was a lot of unknowns for us but we just had to believe and have faith that this is where we are supposed to be.”

The Salukis will take on Evansville at 5 p.m. Saturday at Roberts Stadium.

Matt Hartwig can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 282 or at [email protected]

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