South Dakota State should look familiar to Saluki women

By Gus Bode

The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State will meet SIU for the first time Saturday, providing another chance for the Salukis to get back on track from three straight losses.

SIU could find the contest as a familiar challenge; they could even say that they’ve already played SDSU six times this year.

Like all six opponents SIU (3-3) has had this year, SDSU (4-2) has veteran experience, solid guard play and a record that suggests the team is beatable. The Jackrabbits, aside from their moniker, are particularly interesting as they are not even in a conference.

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SDSU is qualified as an independent in Division I-A. Two years ago they won the Division II national championship. Last year, in its first year at the I-A level, SDSU had a record of 21-7.

SIU head coach Dana Eikenberg knows that this opponent will give her team fits.

“They understand winning, they understand hard work, a team who I scheduled because I knew they were going to be very disciplined,” Eikenberg said.

The similar challenges that have approached the Salukis so far are not a coincidence. Before this season Eikenberg had every intention to challenge her inexperienced group of Salukis.

“We’re playing good teams, and we’re doing some really nice things,” Eikenberg said. “I hope that by the time we get to (Missouri) Valley (Conference) play, we’ll be smarter and a lot stronger. I didn’t schedule a pancake, sort of, non-conference schedule. I did it purposefully.”

SDSU can very well give SIU its fourth straight loss. The Jackrabbits are 12-9 against D-I opponents, and they played Wisconsin Thursday. Two of their wins this year have come on the road against Nebraska and fellow MVC member Drake.

In order to overcome SDSU, the Salukis are continuing to adhere to the gospel of defense. Perimeter defense, in particular, has been a problem. In the past three games, either the leading scorer or the second leading scorer of SIU’s opponents have been a quick guard that has repeatedly broke down the Salukis’ first line of defense.

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Skilled guard play has managed to keep SIU out of contention in its last two games. The Salukis haven’t held a lead since they were up 18-16 over Indiana last Friday.

“We’re back to what we came in here to do from the beginning, and that’s play defense,” sophomore guard Elyse Morris said.

As far as the last three games go, Morris said she feels “the intensity wasn’t there” and that’s why the defense broke down.

Offensively, the main recurring theme is a lack of offense from the post. The Salukis’ leading scorer is still junior forward Carlai Moore, but against Tennessee Tech Tuesday, Moore was held to single digits for the first time this year. The team agrees that the ball needs to find the post more if SIU is to play the kind of offense it wants to play.

The responsibility of running an efficient offense has weighed heavy on each player.

“That’s one of the problems that we’re having, being more vocal in the post, demanding the ball,” freshman forward Jasmine Gibson said. “That’s what we’re striving to do.”

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]

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