Salukis taste sweet victory over Sugar Bears

Salukis taste sweet victory over Sugar Bears

By Symone Woolridge

The Salukis traveled to Conway, Ark. for their fourth straight road test and fought through a low-scoring, final second battle to win their first game in the Cindy Stein era.

The University of Central Arkansas did not make it an easy win for SIU. There were five lead changes and the teams were tied three times, before the Salukis took a 39-37 win over the Sugar Bears.

The win against Central Arkansas marks the first time SIU has held an opponent under 40 points since 2009.


The game marked the third hard fought contest of the Saluki season. SIU took a two-point loss to Austin Peay State University and a three-point loss to Wright State Univerisity to start the season.

After collecting her first win as a Saluki, coach Cindy Stein said the victory was a huge relief for her team.

“I think our team is deciding they want to step up and stick together and grind this thing out,” Stein said. “I think this is our hardest defensive battle of the year.”

Fouls have been the biggest problem for the Salukis. In the first half, SIU tallied six offensive fouls; sophomore forward Azia Washington and junior guard Cartaesha Macklin combined for four of them.

Due to immediate foul trouble, the two sat out of the first half for nearly 12 minutes. Sophomore Center Dyana Pierre did not commit her second foul until the end of the first half. Pierre has been the Salukis’ leading scorer in four games, but she has found herself in foul trouble in nearly all of them.

Stein said Pierre played outstanding defense on Central Arkansas center Courtney Duever. Duever is one of the best players on the Central Arkansas team. The senior was named Southland Conference preseason All-Conference first team. Pierre held Duever to only three points in the game, and forced two turnovers.

“Dyana is getting more comfortable in our style of play and what we are asking of her, and she is accepting the role of being the go-to kid,” Stein said.


Pierre has been a consistent scorer for SIU. On Nov. 27, Pierre tied her career-high after scoring 18 points and shooting 100 percent from the free throw line. The Saluki is now the Missouri Valley Conference leader in rebounds. She has lead SIU on the boards in four out of the five games played.

The Salukis and Sugar Bears struggled in shooting; neither team shot more than 40 percent from the field. As both teams were struggling to make a shot, freshman forward Kim Neebo entered the game scoring back-to-back points for SIU, pulling the Salukis ahead 11-7.

By halftime, the two were tied at a low scoring standstill 19-19. Washington and Macklin returned to the court to begin the second half. Washington added two quick points to the scoreboard. Shooting 5-for-9 from the field she led SIU 10 points in the game.

“Azia hit some unbelievable shots,” Stein said. “There were times where we really needed a bucket and she came in big for us.”

Macklin scored clutch baskets for SIU and knocked down crucial free throws in the last few minutes. Macklin scored two points to bring the Salukis to a 30-28 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game.

Macklin and Pierre were the last two Salukis to score in the remaining four minutes of the second half. Pierre took a layup and scored with 1:20 on the clock to add to the SIU lead 36-33.

In the last 52 seconds of the game, Macklin was fouled and made two points at the free throw line, extending the lead 38-33. Both the Salukis and Sugar Bears were stacked on fouls and were in the bonus.

Two Sugar Bears scored with just under 20 seconds remaining in the game, closing their deficit 38-37 with SIU in the lead. Macklin was fouled and went 1-2 at the free throw line, wrapping up the Saluki lead 39-37 to win the game.

Stein said the two teams played extremely physical, but she did not mind the struggle.

“It was the most physical game that we played all year and there were a lot of physical bumping going on,” Stein said. “But we don’t mind that, we like that because it allows us to play a little bit.”

The Salukis will play in their fifth away game of the year, as they will hope to continue their winning ways against Southeast Missouri State University on Wednesday.