SIU seeks to topple Sycamores

By Gus Bode

The SIU women’s basketball team will find itself in an unusual position Thursday when it travels to Terre Haute to take on the Indiana State Sycamores.

The Salukis (2-14, 0-7 Missouri Valley Conference), still desperately seeking their first conference victory, will likely be playing in front of almost 2,000 blue-clad fans. Although very little attention will be directed the Salukis’ way, they are eager to turn some heads in front of a large crowd.

After SIU’s narrow 54-53 loss to Evansville, head coach Dana Eikenberg and company are ready to redeem themselves for the game that got away. While it may seem daunting to attempt the feat before the eyes of opposing followers, senior guard Danette Jones sees it differently.

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“I love that atmosphere of playing in front of big crowds,” Jones said. “It will be an exciting thing. It says a lot for our conference.”

What also says a lot for the MVC is its fiercely competitive nature. Despite scoring 75 points a game, the Sycamores find themselves in sixth place with a 3-4 record in the MVC.

Junior Ashley Clark leads the Sycamore charge with almost 14.4 points a game. The prolific shooter transferred from Kent State where she saw time in every game her first two collegiate seasons. Eikenberg is expecting a demanding outing from Clark.

“I think she’s really disciplined,” Eikenberg said. “I mean she just out-hustles you. She knows exactly where her points are coming from.”

Should the Salukis manage to fend off Clark, they still have to worry about Melanie Boeglin. Boeglin, another junior, is right behind Clark with an average of 13.4 points in each game.

Boeglin also recently received the State Farm/Missouri Valley Player of the Week award for her performances against Northern Iowa and Bradley. She led the Sycamores in scoring in both games, notching 19 points against UNI and a season-best 23 points in the Braves’ faces.

Complementing its offense, Indiana State also displays a demanding defense. With 13 steals and three blocks a game, the Sycamores will force SIU to protect the ball adamantly.

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As always, the Salukis will attempt to ward off the turnover bug constantly plaguing them. Losing the ball 15 times against Evansville was a conference best for the Salukis this season, but they will have to be even more exacting against the Sycamores.

“We can’t allow them to force us out of our comfort zone,” Eikenberg said. “We want to control the ball when we can.”

Jones and fellow senior Daphney Desamours will probably be the two Salukis tasked with controlling the ball for the majority of the game. Jones, a deadeye from three-point range with 38 treys, continues to lead SIU with 13.8 points a game.

Meanwhile, Desamours is a close second with 13.6 points an outing. The swift guard is also adept at picking pockets with 25 steals this season, giving her 19th place in the MVC for that category.

Jones and Desamours, in addition to the rest of the Salukis, will have a full plate at both ends of the court. Fortunately, they have one weapon the Sycamores do not possess:a burning desire to prove themselves after the Evansville loss and a nothing-to-lose attitude.

Coming so close to victory against the Purple Aces and having it suddenly snatched away has only fueled the Salukis’ will to break their eight-game losing streak and attain a conference win.

Jones said although the Salukis still need a great deal of improvement in communicating with one another, things are starting to show improvement. Their last game showed those signs of light, and Jones is helping they can bring that intensity again.

“The way we came out with the emotion and intensity is how we can play,” Jones said. “We just have to bring that every day.

“It definitely makes you hungry to get back on the court against Indiana State.”

Reporter Gabe House can be reached at [email protected]

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