A pair of proficient point guards

By Gus Bode

Dana Pinkston and Chris Perry lead their team with contrasting styles

The SIU women’s basketball team has a problem that many teams would like to have.

It has two point guards of opposite styles leading its offense in Dana Pinkston and Chris Perry.

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Pinkston, a junior college transfer, is a 5-foot-4 water bug that brings excitement to the game from the moment she checks in. She is the sports car of the two:quick, flashy and more prone to accidents.

“Dana’s capable of scoring,” said SIU head coach Lori Opp. “She can shoot from the outside. She can take it to the basket. She makes things happen offensively.”

But with the scoring comes turnovers and poor decision making. Pinkston has the worst points-to-turnover ratio in the Saluki backfield.

At the opposite end of the lead guard spectrum is Perry, who has a year of experience under her belt after backing up Holly Teague last season. Perry is the Buick of the two. She’s not quite as quick or flashy, but she gets the ball to its destination safely and reliably.

“Chris brings more of a steadiness and consistency,” Opp said. “You know what she’s going to give you effort-wise every single day. She plays pretty solid defense. She’s a lefty so that throws some people off.”

Pinkston has started every game this season, but Perry has seen increased playing time lately. In last week’s game at Creighton, Perry played 19 minutes, more than twice her average, while Pinkston appeared in only 13 minutes, half her usual.

“This is all about meshing well with who you’re playing with,” Pinkston said. “[Opp’s] just trying to find people that mesh together.”

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The Saluki lineups have not been meshing much lately, as the team has lost six straight and has yet to pick up a conference victory.

But the best chance for that elusive league win could come tonight, when the Redbirds of Illinois State pay a visit to the SIU Arena for a 7:05 contest.

Illinois State (3-11, 0-4 MVC) is currently ninth in the conference, one spot ahead of SIU.

Pinkston and Perry will face off with Redbird point guard Taren O’Brien, who leads her team in scoring, assists and minutes.

The Savannah, Mo., native is the only Redbird averaging double figures, at 10.4 points per game.

Defense has propelled the Redbirds in their recent homestand. Southwest Missouri State and Bradley did not make a shot for the last five-plus minutes of their respective games in Normal.

And that should be familiar to the Salukis. Illinois State played strong defense down the stretch to complete a comeback win the last time the two teams met in Carbondale.

Illinois State defeated SMS with a late shot by Sara Stevenson, her only attempt of the game. The freshman guard from Olney will be returning to Southern Illinois today for the first time in her short Redbird career.

A win could be key for the Salukis in achieving their goal of a sixth-place conference finish, as every league team already has at least one loss.

“Southern Illinois is a much-improved team,” said Redbird head coach Jenny Yopp. “We know that it’s going to be quite a battle on both ends of the floor.”

And for the first time in this young conference season, this is a game in which the Salukis don’t enter as big underdogs, giving them extra motivation.

“Our intensity level will be higher because we just need this win to get it going,” Pinkston said.

Reporter Ethan Erickson can be reached at [email protected]

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