Champions are your underdog

By Gus Bode

The reigning Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champions are starting their season as the underdogs.

The SIU women’s basketball team is set to begin its season against No. 25 DePaul Saturday at the SIU Arena. SIU prepared for this game during the exhibition season when they displayed a high-powered offense. The Salukis dominated in their two exhibition games this season as they outscored Harris-Stowe and Lambuth by a combined score of 191-89.

The nationally-ranked Blue Demons could force SIU to prove its new offense, as DePaul was ranked third in points per game for the Big East last season with 73.2.


SIU coach Dana Eikenberg said the team would need to play better than what she has seen if they want to win.

“We have a chance to get our butt kicked,” Eikenberg said. “They are going to exploit every weakness we have and that’s why I want to play great teams like DePaul. We’ll have it handed to us if we don’t come out with intensity and teamwork.”

Junior forward Jasmine Gibson said she agrees with the coach, but added while they may not be ready for the Blue Demons now, they have had a week of practice to prepare.

Gibson has emerged in place of last season’s All-MVC forward Carlai Moore. Gibson had 43 points and 14 rebounds during the two exhibition games.

Defense will be a challenge for Gibson against DePaul, as the Blue Demons have four players at 6-foot, 3-inches or taller.

Gibson, who is listed at 5-foot, 10-inches, said she is used to being the smaller player so it is not an excuse.

“I have to use my speed and quickness because I am outsized in any game we play,” Gibson said. “I need to be able to keep my feet free and try to space out the court.”


The Blue Demons’ perimeter can be just as dangerous as their post. Senior guard Allie Quigley leads the DePaul attack with her 191 career three-pointers, good enough for second all-time in school history.

SIU will look to counter Quigley with its deep backcourt. Seniors Jayme Sweere and Erin Pauk, along with junior Erica Smith, lead the Saluki guards. Sweere was second on the team last season in rebounds, points, assists and three-pointers.

The Salukis also added freshmen Tanaeya Worden and Ellen Young, who have already shown what they can do at the guard position. Young scored 25 points during the exhibition games, while Worden had 29 points.

SIU also has senior guard Debbie Burris who was a sniper from behind the arc last season with 53 three-pointers. Burris is still recovering from a back injury and may only see limited play Saturday.

Pauk said the offense is focused on controlling the pace of the game.

“We don’t want to get in a track race with them so we will try to control the tempo,” Pauk said. “But when we have the opportunity we are going to run and push the pace.”

SIU proved last season it can rise to a challenge when put to the test. After being picked to finish seventh in the conference, the team won the regular season championship and made it to the National Invitational Tournament.

Eikenberg said she will find out if this season’s squad can play through adversity.

“It’s going to be a reality check when we get to the first 16 minute timeout and we’re down by 20 because we haven’t recognized the toughness and intensity of Division I basketball,” Eikenberg said. “If I got five kids out there that believe in the system though, we will be OK.”

Tip-off will be at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the SIU Arena. Admission will be $1 for fans with a ticket stub from Saturday’s Saluki football game.

Daily Egyptian reporter Jeff Engelhardt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 238 or [email protected].