Daily Egyptian

Bench adds depth to Saluki basketball

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

SIU women’s basketball returned all five starters from last season, but it has not prevented the bench players from contributing.

Coach Cindy Stein used four different lineups in 30 games last season. Through nine games this season, she has sent out five different starting combinations.

There were six Salukis to average 20 or more minutes per game last season, and nobody else averaged more than nine. Five Salukis average more than 20 minutes and three others see the floor at least 10 minutes per game.

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The average bench player played eight and a half minutes per game. This season, reserves are averaging more than 10 minutes per game.

Stein said this year’s depth will pay off during the season.

“It’s going to be huge, even more coming up,” she said. “Kids will face the grind of the season and get tired, so having a really good-quality bench is important.”

The Saluki bench scored 14.6 percent of SIU’s points last season, compared to 28.1 percent this season.

Senior power forward Azia Washington’s recovery from knee surgery has provided reserves with more opportunities this season. Washington, who started 58 of 60 games the previous two years, has started one game and is averaging career lows with 10.3 minutes, 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

Three players in particular are taking advantage of Washington’s absence. 

Junior guard/forward Carlie Corrigan has started three games this year, equaling her total number of starts in her first two seasons. Junior forward Kim Nebo has also started three and sophomore forward/center Celina VanHyfte has started four. Neither Nebo nor VanHyfte had started a game before this season.

VanHyfte said she worked during the offseason on staying relaxed during games.

“Last year, I was just thinking way too much.” she said. “This year, I’m more calm and relaxed and focusing more on what I have to do in the game.”

VanHyfte is averaging 5.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, both career highs.

Nebo, who is also averaging career highs with 4.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, said her improvements have been mental.

“I’m more mature,” she said. “Just understanding what [Stein] wants. She wants energy off the bench and smart decisions.”

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

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