Salukis prepped for new chapter against Skyhawks

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

SIU women’s basketball plays University of Tennessee at Martin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the second year in a row the teams will meet early in the season. 

Last year the Salukis opened the season with an 87-78 win at UT Martin on Nov. 14. UTM made the NCAA Tournament in 2013, while SIU won five games that year.

SIU (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley Conference) made the nation’s third-largest turnaround in 2014-15, winning 12 games more than it did the year before. The Dawgs missed out on postseason play by losing their first game in the MVC Tournament to Northern Iowa 59-50.


The Skyhawks (1-3, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference) went undefeated in the OVC last season and made the postseason for the fifth straight time. They lost to Mississippi 80-70 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. 

The on-paper difference is not so vast this time around.

Saluki junior point guard Rishonda Napier said the previous year’s meeting has no bearing on this year’s game.

“I feel that we worked hard and played together last year, and that’s what got us that win,” she said. “What we did the year before that was irrelevant, and what we did last year is irrelevant this year because it’s a new season.”

Napier led SIU with 20 points against the Skyhawks last year.

Both the Skyhawks and Salukis have been tested by ranked opponents early in the season. SIU lost 105-61 at No. 22 DePaul Nov. 13 and UT Martin lost 62-56 at No. 23 Iowa Nov. 15.

“I know that they’re very good,” Saluki coach Cindy Stein said. “They played a very good Iowa team extremely well. They’re very well coached. We expect a battle.”


Junior guard Jessy Ward leads UTM with an average of 18.0 points per game this year. Freshman guard DaiJia Ruffin adds 15.0 points per game off the bench.

Ruffin has turned the ball over 12 times in four games this year, compared to Ward’s one.

Senior guard Cartaesha Macklin said the key for the Salukis will be focus.

“We’ve just got to play hard,” she said. “From here on out, that’s got to be our plan.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307