Salukis look to start winning streak at Southern Mississippi

By Gus Bode

Someone sent Dana Eikenberg flowers.

The bouquet of roses wasn’t from an admirer – at least not in the traditional sense. They were a congratulatory gift for her first victory as the SIU women’s basketball team’s head coach.

“You would think somebody died,” Eikenberg said, looking at the flowers on her desk. “But one victory doesn’t make a season.”


It is a consensus seemingly shared by the entire team. Senior center Wendy Goodman said it was gratifying to pick up the win after all the hard work, but Tuesday’s game against Saint Louis was far from perfect.

The women’s basketball team will hit the road again this weekend, traveling to Hattiesburg, Miss., in an attempt to snag its second victory of the season, and take a small step toward perfection.

Now 1-5, SIU will face Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles are a paradoxical team with no seniors, only two juniors and a respected coach with more than 15 years of experience.

Joye Lee-McNelis, in her first year as head coach of Southern Mississippi, is attempting to corral a very young team, and the Salukis are aiming to take advantage of that inexperience.

Eikenberg is wary of McNelis, despite the fact they are both entering their first seasons at new schools.

“She’s one of the pioneers in the game,” Eikenberg said. “I’m still a new pup.”

Still, the Golden Eagles perhaps haven’t figured out their communication patterns with one another. Eikenberg is expecting a very athletic team with the potential to be effective in a very short time.


So the Salukis will employ the same strategy they did against Saint Louis – jump out early, apply heavy ball pressure and attempt to control the tempo of the game.

Shannon Steuber will be the foremost obstacle for SIU to hurdle. The freshman forward is the leading scorer for Southern Mississippi with 15 points a game. Eikenberg is hoping to limit Steuber’s shots with good ball pressure.

“She’s very smart, very methodical and very effective,” Eikenberg said. “She reminds me a lot of Danette [Jones].”

Jones, a senior guard for the Salukis, is averaging 17 points a game despite the added pressure she has seen in the past couple of games. Opponents doing their homework have been attempting to limit her touches on the ball.

But Jones has been getting help from fellow senior Daphney Desamours and most recently, from junior Amy Hayden.

Desamours has been contributing 13 points a game, and Hayden exploded with an 18-point game against Saint Louis, topping her former career-best by four points. Senior center Wendy Goodman, along with the rest of the team, was grateful for Hayden’s aggressiveness.

“We’ve known from the beginning she has that potential,” Goodman said. “I’m glad it finally came out.”

Eikenberg is hoping Desamours and Hayden can help give Jones some more time with the ball, particularly from beyond the arc.

Jones is 18-of-49 from three-point range, and her ability to drop bombs is a key factor in the Salukis’ success, especially since Southern Mississippi is allowing its opponents almost 63 points a game.

On the other hand, the Golden Eagles seem tentative to take the long shots. Steuber led the team with only 14 attempts, 11 of which she has sunk. Eikenberg is expecting that to play to SIU’s strength.

“Applying ball pressure is our goal,” Eikenberg said. “Hopefully, we’ll disrupt what they’re trying to do.”

Although the Salukis finally broke the goose egg that had been haunting them with Tuesday’s victory, Eikenberg and the team know there is still much to be done.

Improvements have been made, most noticeably in communication between the Salukis, but Eikenberg is looking at the Golden Eagles as another chance for SIU to learn more about itself.

Goodman also said Southern Mississippi would be another opportunity to focus on the fundamentals such as ball handling, boxing out, and communicating with one another. Also, another win would be nice.

“It gave us more confidence,” Goodman said of the trouncing against Saint Louis. “We need these rewards.”