SIU women’s basketball opens MVC play with victory

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Senior forward Kim Nebo looks up toward the goal during SIU’s 73-57 victory against the Loyola Ramblers on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, at SIU Arena. Nebo scored 10 points in the game. (Jacob Wiegand | jawiegandphoto)

By Sean Carley

Loyola, a team that only returned three players overall after a coaching scandal in the offseason, was limited to nine players against SIU after graduation and illness further dwindled its roster.

This created a challenge an already inexperienced Rambler team couldn’t overcome Friday as SIU beat Loyola 73-57 in the two teams’ Missouri Valley Conference opener.

The Salukis pulled away late in the third quarter after Loyola (1-11, 0-1 MVC) stuck around in the first half.

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SIU (7-5, 1-0 MVC) was able to get out to as wide of a lead as nine points after senior forward Kim Nebo hit a jump shot with just more than six minutes to go in the second, but Loyola was able to get back within four before halftime.

Nebo was the Salukis’ driving force in the first 20 minutes, picking up a double-double before the halftime buzzer with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

She added just one rebound in the second half after spending most of the time on the bench in foul trouble. Rebounding would play a huge role in the game, as SIU grabbed 20 more boards than the Ramblers.

The Saluki defense did its job for the most part in the first half, holding Loyola to 27 points on 37.9 percent shooting. They couldn’t get much going offensively, but still held a 31-27 lead.

SIU outshot Loyola at 40.6 percent, but only went to the free-throw line once in the first half and missed that attempt. Conversely, the Ramblers made five of their six first-half free throw attempts.

Offense wouldn’t be an issue in the second half as multiple Salukis came alive. SIU missed only eight of its 26 shots in the second half to put Loyola away.

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Redshirt freshman forward Tiajaney Hawkins scored 12 of her 14 points in the second half, including a sequence where she scored six consecutive points to extend the lead to 17.

The Salukis led from start to finish and by as much as 18 during the game. Ultimately, five Salukis would end up in double figures, led by senior guard Rishonda Napier’s 20.

SIU women’s basketball will try to finish a perfect weekend and kick off 2017 with a 1 p.m. matchup against Indiana State on New Year’s Day.

Staff writer Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SeanMCarley.

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