Napier leads SIU through tough loss

Napier leads SIU through tough loss

By Symone Woolridge


The crowd of 508 at SIU arena Friday was in for a good season opener as the Salukis put up a good fight against Wright State University.

The SIU women walked away with a tough 67-64 loss Friday night. Sophomore guard Rishonda Napier lead the Salukis with 13 points. Sophomore center Dyana Pierre and junior guard Cartaesha Macklin were the second leading scorers, capturing 12 points apiece throughout the game.


This is the Salukis third time facing the Raiders since a first match loss of 75-53 in 2010, and a second match loss of 61-59 in 2011.

This was Head Coach Cindy Stein’s first game as SIU’s head coach, after the women went 1-1 in exhibition this season. Stein said she is proud of her Salukis, but there are repetitive mistakes that have become an issue in their losses.

“I expected a win, we are going into the nights expecting wins and nothing else,” Stein said. “I think that our toughness is coming around and I think that we will be in the winning mix more than enough.”

Stein did not want the women to be discouraged, and said Napier has become a great leader for the Salukis, helping everyone’s confidence, she said.

“We just like to encourage each other,” Napier said. “Having our heads down is not going to make us shoot any better.”

Napier competed against junior guard Kim Demmings, who scored 31 points. Demmings was sent to the free throw line eight times, shooting 9-15.

Demmings was also chosen as the Horizons league preseason player of the year for the second consecutive season. Last season she led the Raiders to a record of 12-18. Demmings averaged 19.6 points per game, 1.9 three-pointers per game and 4.6 defensive rebounds.


Stein said she knew Demmings would be a scorer in Friday’s game, but the Salukis put up a good fight.

“She was a handful, but I still think that we limited her,” Stein said. “We made her take some crazy shots and she got past us a couple times, but our kids kept fighting and fighting to come back.”

Stein said although the women played well, there are little problems that need to be fixed. In exhibition and throughout the first game, the Salukis have found themselves in foul trouble and have missed crucial free throws that could have put them in winning position.

“We haven’t had a chance to go over last-second decisions because we have been working so hard on our defense in practice,” Stein said. “Us making a free throw is something that we are very capable of doing, we just have to work on it.”

In the two exhibition games, the Salukis struggled with defense. The SIU women accumulate fouls and have trouble defending bigger opponents. After the second exhibition game against Lindenwood, Stein said the Salukis had to get used to playing bigger. They only have two centers, and Stein wants others to step up.

“We’ve got to recognize our mistakes earlier,” Stein said. “Defensively we have to find depth and several others to step up and become leaders on the floor.”

Stein said after speaking to Napier about her leadership, she has done a great job taking initiative on the floor. She played 38 minutes against WSU and Stein said the minutes were not an accident.

“We wore her out this game,” Stein said. “We didn’t give her a lot of rest at all.”

Last week, Napier said she watched much of the film alone and analyzed mistakes made during exhibition. In practice she faced a crucial migraine, but decided to fight through it. Napier said the Salukis have been playing as a team, encouraging each other to stick together.

“Regardless of what anybody was expecting, we know what we can do,” Napier said. “We believe in ourselves and we have been putting in the work and now it’s time for our hard work to pay off.”

Pierre pulled away with a double-double, capturing 15 total rebounds along with 12 points. Last season Pierre led the Salukis in rebounding and blocks. This season, Pierre said she is hoping to make double digit scoring and rebounding a habit.

“I feel myself improving, and every day I’m getting better and better,” Pierre said. “So getting double-doubles was one of my goals this year.”

The Salukis take on Austin Peay State University tonight at 6:05 p.m. at SIU Arena. The Lady Govs lost their season opener 78-75 against Western Kentucky. Stein has faced the Lady Govs previously as a coach at the University of Missouri.

“Easy quick adjustments are possible,” Napier said. “By Tuesday’s game, we know we could be a winning team.”

Symone Woolridge can be reached at [email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 269.