Salukis save best for last

By Gus Bode

The Salukis had a scare in the first half of Monday night’s game against Christian Brothers, but walked away with a 71-55 win.

SIU trailed by nine points at the half and was out-rebounded 20-10. SIU coach Dana Eikenberg said she called out the team leaders at halftime after what she said was an abysmal 20 minutes of basketball.

Junior forward Jasmine Gibson responded to lead the Salukis’ second-half comeback, hitting shot after shot from the baseline and the top of the key. Gibson ended the game with 24 points, five rebounds and three steals.

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The come-from-behind victory was spurred by two Saluki scoring streaks. The first came on a 12-2 run that gave SIU its first lead of the game with 14 minutes, 30 seconds to play in the second half. Gibson had six points during the run, including a layup where she crashed headfirst into the padding of the hoop support.

Gibson said the open looks in the second half were due to penetration by Saluki guards.

“We were trying to penetrate and space out the floor for kick outs,” Gibson said. “I felt like I did what I was supposed to do and just be aware of what was going on.”

A 13-1 in the waning moments sealed the game. The Salukis’ aggressive full-court pressure wore down the Lady Bucs and opened up the transition offense for SIU, which was stifled in the first half.

Both senior guard Jayme Sweere and junior guard Erica Smith found success in the up-tempo offense in the second half. Sweere finished with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Smith notched 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.

Despite the victory, Eikenberg said the team has to learn to play at a higher level if it wants to succeed.

“This team needs to really understand how important practice is and the leaders need to be able to step up,” Eikenberg said. “It’s time to put up or shut up. This program is about hard work. It’s about discipline. It’s about fundamentals.”

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Christian Brothers controlled the first half of play as it took a 36-28 lead into halftime. The Lady Bucs started the game with a 6-0 run and didn’t relinquish the lead that half.

Christian Brothers lived from behind the arc in the first half as it went 6-for-7. The guards continued to pop open off of center Ponecia Anderson’s screens.

Despite not scoring any points, Anderson used her lanky 6-foot-4-inch frame to prevent SIU defenders from stopping perimeter shots. Guard Tameka Wooten took care of the scoring dropping a team-high 14 points to go with her five rebounds.

Offensively, the Salukis came out with a different lineup as freshmen Katrina Swingler and Tanaeya Worden joined the starting lineup. The new rotation struggled to find a rhythm with the first Saluki basket coming off a Smith layup four minutes into the game.

The Salukis had their transition offense squandered as the Lady Bucs’ defense forced SIU to take shots late in each possession. The Salukis were only able to get offensive momentum once when they went on a 7-0 run.

The run began with Gibson’s jumper and was followed by two consecutive steals, which resulted in a layup and a free throw. Smith led all scorers at the half with nine points, one steal and one block.

Smith said the team was not happy with the game, but was saved by its persistent defense.

“I don’t think we took them lightly but we didn’t come out and do what we had to do,” Smith said. “We didn’t let up defensively and we played defense until the buzzer sounded.”

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

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