Salukis can’t hold lead against Fighting Illini

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

The SIU women’s basketball team gained four separate leads, but could not hold any of them in Tuesday’s loss at Illinois.

The Salukis (4-4) led for 75 seconds in the game before losing 78-64.

The Fighting Illini (6-1) had six players score more than 10 points each in the game, led by freshman guard Cierra Rice with 17 points, 12 of which were in the second half.


“This is a tough loss,” junior point guard Rishonda Napier said. “We wanted a different outcome, but we’ve got to take it and learn from it.”

The Salukis took their first lead with 2:20 remaining in the first quarter on senior forward Azia Washington’s first three-pointer of the season.

The lead was short-lived, as sophomore center Chatrice White put the Illini back on top with a layup 20 seconds later.

Illinois extended its lead to 33-21 five minutes before SIU ended the half on a 14-2 run, helped by two three-point plays by senior center Dyana Pierre.

Washington sank two free throws with three seconds left in the half to tie the game at 35.

“We played the first half very confident,” coach Cindy Stein said. “We were taking care of the ball. We had good shot selection. I felt like we started a little sluggish, but we were hanging in there.”

White and Pierre led all scorers with eight points at halftime.


SIU regained the lead of 42-41 with 8:10 to play in the third quarter on a three-pointer by senior shooting guard Cartaesha Macklin. 

The lead was even shorter than the first — 17 seconds — as Illinois sophomore guard Kennedy Cattenhead put her team back on top with a three pointer.

The longest lead the Salukis held lasted 24 seconds. A three-pointer by Napier gave SIU a 49-47 lead with 5:16 left in the third, but the Illini tied it up with a layup by White at 4:52.

Illinois led the rest of the way, extending its lead to as many as 14 points. 

“We played hard,” Pierre said. “We knocked down shots when we needed to. We just got undisciplined there in the second half.”

Nine of SIU’s 14 fouls were in the second half of the game.

The Salukis made seven of nine free throws in the first half, but missed their only attempt from the charity stripe after halftime.

Illinois outrebounded SIU 22-10 in the second half.

“You could say [we ran out of gas],” Stein said. “They kept getting offensive boards and putting it back. Those offensive boards broke our back.”

Pierre recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. She had a game-high four blocks.

White picked up her own double-double with 16 points and a game-high 14 boards, with eight in the second half.

SIU hosts Morehead State (4-5) at 3 p.m Saturday at SIU Arena.

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