Daily Egyptian

Saluki women’s season ends in blowout loss to UNI

By Thomas Donley, @TDonleyDE

The Southern Illinois women’s basketball season ended in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Saturday.

Top-seeded Northern Iowa (22-9, 15-3 MVC) dominated the No. 4 Salukis (20-12, 12-6) in a 67-43 win to advance to Sunday’s finals.

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” SIU coach Cindy Stein said. “Northern Iowa gets a lot of credit for their offense, but the defense won the game.”

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The Panthers put the game away in the first half, taking a 41-17 lead into the locker room.

“It was probably the best first half we played all year long,” Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren said. “It started on the defensive end for us. Our game plan going in was really to try to take away the 3-point line from them and try to keep the rebounding battle close, and I thought we did a great job of that.”

UNI contested nearly every Saluki shot, while SIU allowed wide open layups and 3-pointers. The Panthers shot 58.6 percent from the floor in the first half, including 7-11 behind the 3-point line. The Salukis made 25.8 percent of their first-half shots and went 0-6 beyond the arc.

“We knew what they were going to do,” Stein said. “We just didn’t have kids step up and get the job done. And their offensive sets, you’d better be disciplined defensively, and defense has been a problem of ours. Especially when we’re not hitting.”

Panther junior guard Madison Weekly scored a game-high 21 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Senior forward Jen Keitel added 10. Panther junior forward Hannah Schonhardt hauled in a game-high nine rebounds.

“In warmups [my shots] were going in,” Weekly said. “I just knew how to come out with a lot of confidence, and that’s kind of what happened.”

Senior guard Cartaesha Macklin led SIU with nine points on 4-17 shooting.

Stein said she still has hope that the Salukis can make a postseason tournament. SIU is ranked No. 137 in the RPI.

The loss was the Salukis’ second to Northern Iowa in nine days. The Panthers beat the Salukis 73-64 March 3 in Carbondale.

UNI eliminated SIU in the MVC Tournament last season with a 59-50 win in the 2015 quarterfinals.

The Panthers will face either No. 3 Missouri State or No. 2 Drake at 2:05 p.m. Sunday in Moline.

Thomas Donley can be reached at t[email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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