W bball: Salukis finish the job

By Gus Bode

Nets are being cut down at an alarming rate in the SIU Arena.

The SIU women’s basketball team defeated Missouri State 60-47 Thursday night at SIU Arena solidifying its position atop the Missouri Valley Conference.

After a loss by Illinois State Sunday, the Salukis (19-9, 15-2) won the MVC regular season title outright and celebrated with a postgame ceremony.

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Senior forward Carlai Moore led SIU in scoring with 15 points and made several baskets down the stretch to put the Bears (7-19, 3-14) away for good.

Moore said it feels great to be the champions, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.

“I think it was a very important game because they want to come in and say they’ve beaten the No. 1 team,” Moore said. “My focus is still every day and every game.”

The Salukis were up 27-13 at the end of the first half, holding the MVC’s second best scoring offense to 21.7 percent shooting in the first half while shutting down junior guard Tahnee Balerio. Balerio entered the contest as the leading scorer in the conference at 19.3 points per game, but was scoreless in the first half.

In the second half, Missouri State cut the 14-point SIU lead to six but junior guard Debbie Burris hit a jumper in traffic at the six minute, 31 second mark to avoid further damage.

Sophomore forward Jasmine Gibson then came off the bench to hit a two-pointer with 4:16 to go in the game, which drove the dagger into the Bears.

Gibson grabbed seven rebounds for the Salukis and shot 2-of-5 from the field.

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She said the bench play has been instrumental to the late season run by the Salukis.

“When you start the second half of the season your bench becomes very key,” Gibson said. “You just try to come off the bench with the same intensity as the starting five.”

Thursday night’s win against Missouri State sets up Senior Day for Moore at 2:05 p.m. Saturday against Wichita State.

While the game won’t have any implications on the rest of the regular season, Saluki coach Dana Eikenberg said the team won’t taking the Shockers lightly.

“We set some goals early in August about how we wanted to handle conference play and there were specific teams we haven’t beat in a lot of years and Wichita State is one of them,” Eikenberg said. “This team has been very good at focusing day to day and obviously it’s going to be an emotional game for Carlai.”

The Shockers (9-17, 4-12) were picked to finish second in the MVC and feature two preseason All-MVC members in junior forward Kiki Stephens and senior center Antionette Wells.

Wichita State lost to the Salukis 74-64 on Dec. 28 in Wichita, Kan. The Shockers are coming off a loss to Evansville Wednesday 77-68.

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