Heartbreaker: Southern falls short against Illinois State in final seconds

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

The Illinois State University Redbirds toppled the Southern Illinois Salukis, 68-66, during the team’s second matchup of the regular season Sunday afternoon. 

The game was held on National Girls and Women in Sports Day and Saluki head coach Cindy Stein stressed the importance of celebrating the occasion.

“Any time that we can thank our mentors is great,” Stein said. “We had some awesome pioneers here at Southern, like Charlotte West, that allowed us to be able to do what we do now. It’s a special day.”

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The matchup between these two teams is one of the oldest in MVC history, dating all the way back to 1962. On the team’s 112th meeting, the Salukis (11-11,MVC 4-7) fell to ISU to adding another loss to their column of the now 63-49 all-time series.

Illinois State (14-9, MVC 7-5) opened the scoring for tonight’s game pounding it into the paint twice through senior center Simone Goods giving her a quick five points as she was fouled on her first made basket.

“I thought today was one of those roller coaster rides,” Stein said. “We didn’t start off very good, but we made a great comeback.”

Sophomore guard Makenzie Silvey was the first to score for Southern draining a three point jumper from the wing to make the score 5-3.

ISU continued to take it at the Dawgs scoring two more baskets in the paint and draining a three pointer. This three basket run extend the Redbird lead to 14-3.

“We’ve been struggling in the first quarter lately, letting teams get off to a big lead,” Silvey said. “We have to stop that to win games.”

Junior point guard Brittney Patrick drained the second three pointer of the game for SIU, but the Salukis had no answer for the Redbird offense as they scored another two layups in the paint.

Trailing with the score at 23-9, junior guard Kristen Nelson executed a tricky isolation play to get to the basket and score a runner for Southern.

Nelson totaled 13 points by the end of the night and three boards.

Making just her second career start in over two years, junior center Lauren Hartman, got to the foul line on the next possession to bring the score to 23-13.

ISU struggled to score in the final minute of the quarter and the Dawgs capitalized on this getting to the line once more to make one of two free throws leaving the score 23-14 at the end of the quarter.

Seemingly shaking off their previous minute of play, Illinois State opened the second quarter with a steal and fast break layup.

The next possessions were tough for Southern, but a reverse layup under the basket from Patrick loosened up the offense and they scored once again after her trick shot.

Sticking with the momentum,  Nelson and her teammate junior forward Nicole Martin attacked the basket to get to the foul line and make a total of three free throws to cut the ISU lead down to nine.

From there, the Salukis caught fire and went on to score three more back-to-back baskets, one coming on a steal from Martin, to almost fully catch the Redbirds with the new score at 30-27.

Martin finished the evening with 13 points and four rebounds.

A foul picked up by Nelson, sent Illinois State guard Katrina Beck to the line where she sunk both of her free throws to extend her teams shortening lead.

Silvey reentered the game for Southern and hit a mid range jumper to bring the Dawgs back within three, but ISU had the final say as they scored a layup in the middle of the lane to end the half with a 34-29 lead.

“We did a lot better with defense in the second half and that was able to get us back into the game,” Silvey said. “We were executing better in the second half.”

Silvey led the team in scoring tonight with 14 points and four rebounds.

A Martin layup, with a feed from Patrick, got the second half underway, but the Redbirds responded with two layups of their own to extend their lead to 38-31.

Martin continued to be the fuel to Southern’s fire in the third quarter scoring another basket on a mid range jumper.

ISU’s Goods reignited in the third quarter scoring two back-to-back baskets in the paint to extending the Redbird lead to nine.

“She’s very physical and strong,” Silvey said. “No one likes to get pushed around, but I think ours posts did a pretty good job on her. Once she get someone buried under the basket, she’s hard to stop with her size and strength.”

Illinois State continued to take it at SIU responding to every basket the Salukis scored and getting their lead back up with the score at 47-36.

Sophomore forward Abby Brockmeyer played hard defense for the Dawgs  and this translated to the offensive end as she scored in the paint to chip away at the Illinois State lead.

“Defensively I felt that we did some pretty good things to create offense and get us back into the game,” Stein said.

A buzzer beating three pointer from Martin ended the third quarter and pushed Southern back within five points of the Redbirds as the score entering the fourth became 48-43.

Despite an ISU layup opening the fourth quarter, the Salukis stole the show draining two consecutive three pointers with one being from Silvey and the other being from freshman guard Payton McCallister.

Brockmeyer then got to the line to make one of two and make it a three point game at 53-50.

Immediately after this, Nelson stole the Redbird inbounds pass and gave the ball to McCallister for the layup before falling out of bounds. This exciting play put the score within a single point and brought the crowd to their feet.”

“We know we can compete and make big shots,” Silvey said. “We had a pretty good crowd today, so that helped a lot. When the momentum got going in the building, we were able to feed off of that.”

“We had good play coming of of the bench from Kris Nelson and Payton McCallister,” Stein said. “Both made really good plays and helped us out a lot.”

While this play was exciting, the next by Brockmeyer was the game changer. The sophomore forward snatched down an offensive rebound on a free throw to get a put back bucket and tie the game at 55-55.

“What I loved about our team is that we came back and we fought,” Stein said. “We had a lot of scrappy plays and we played a little bit more free. They showed tremendous heart and I know that this has to be very disappointing for them.”

McCallister took it a step further as she drained a three pointer on the next possession to give Southern their first lead of the game at 58-55.

“You just have to be ready at all times because you never know when your turn’s going to be and when you’re going to have to step up,” McCallister said.

McCallister went on to finish with seven points and two rebounds.

This three pointer got the ball rolling and the Dawgs continued to extend their lead with a deep three from Silvey.

ISU came back down the floor to score another layup in the paint to tie it 61-61, but the tie was short lived as Nelson drained the third three of the quarter to take the lead.

“We just have to work on playing the full 40 minutes of the game because we seem to have a lull in every game,” McCallister said.

The scored tied once more, but this time Goods was the one to put her team ahead as she scored a layup in the paint.

“We do have to do the little things better like executing, making free throws, and taking care of the ball,” Stein said.

Goods led her in in points tonight with 24.

Brockmeyer tied the score again with just over 30 seconds remaining in the game on a layup.

With 30 seconds on the clock Illinois State got to the basket for a quick bucket and the lead at 68-66.

“We tightened up a little bit because we wanted the lead so bad,” Stein said. “We kind of froze up. We have to be able to turn the corner and play the full 40 minutes.”

The Dawgs then had 25 seconds on the clock to make a play, but they were unable to put the ball through the hoop and this sealed their two point loss to the Redbirds at 68-66.

“We just couldn’t close this one out,” Stein said. “This one’s on me because I’ve got to call a better play at the end of the game so we can get a better shot.”

The SIU Women will take the court again next Friday in Chicago as they take on the Loyola University Ramblers at 7 p.m.

“This is one of those things where you don’t know why it’s happening to your team, but you have to dig down, show good character, and keep fighting,” Stein said. “That’s what we plan on doing.”

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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