Women’s basketball: Where does Southern stand?

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

This season has proved to be very rough for the both SIU Basketball programs – each were expected to crack top three positions in The Valley but neither have been able to make the top four. 

With the season coming to a close and the conference tournament around the corner, many Saluki Women’s Basketball fans may be wondering what our chances are coming into the conference tournament and where we currently fall in the Missouri Valley.

In order to understand our position in the conference and our chances at the trophy, we must take a look at the top teams in the conference this season.

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1. Missouri State: The Lady Bears are currently tied for the number one spot in the conference and have been playing very well this year. They hold an overall record of 17-8 and a conference record of 13-1.

MSU is currently riding a three game win streak after losing to the the third seeded Illinois State on the 15th. This season Southern has been swept by the Bears losing the first matchup 66-51 and the second 58-70. While SIU was swept this season, we cannot discount their talent and ability can potentially top teams like the Bears.

At the beginning of the second matchup, the Dawgs led the Lady Bears for a respectable amount of time and matched up quite well with them. Small mistakes ultimately led to SIU’s demise and helped MSU to complete the sweep.

While the Salukis struggled with small mistakes they seemed to score with ease against the Missouri State Defense hanging with them until the end of the game. We must also take into consideration Southern’s two point loss to Illinois State, who has been the only team to beat the Lady Bears.

Coming up, the Lady Bears will play UNI, Drake, Evansville, and Indiana State. The most crucial of these game will be Drake, seeing as it could determine who enters the tournament as the number one seed.

2. Drake: Drake University is the second team involved in the tie for first place in the conference. They are currently ranked 24th in the nation as well.

The Bulldogs hold an overall record of 21-5 and a conference record of 13-1. They are currently on a six game win streak after suffering a loss to MSU on the 1st. SIU lost 94-66 in its first game against DU, but the Dawgs will have a chance to redeem themselves this Friday as they take on the Bulldogs in the SIU arena where they have only lost three games.

While the loss to Drake in January was rather dramatic, the Salukis do have a chance to beat their Iowa rival at home seeing as they play so well in the arena.  Sophomores Becca Hittner and Sara Rhine lead the Bulldogs in scoring averaging 15.7 and 15.6 points per game. Both of these lanky players are very skilled inside and outside of the arc.

The Bulldogs will be a tough team to beat on Friday and in the conference tournament as they have one of the best three point shooting teams in the conference and they have a tremendous size.

While these facts hold true, Southern still has a chance to upset the Bulldogs seeing has they have a quicker team and a better inside game. Drake will play SIU, MSU, ISU and Bradley in their closing games. As I mentioned before, the game against Missouri State will be a crucial one for the Bulldogs.

3. Northern Iowa: Northern Iowa is comfortably in the third place position. The Panthers currently hold an overall record of 17-9 and an MVC record of 10-4.

UNI is riding a two game win streak after losing to Drake on the 15th. The Dawgs fell to Northern Iowa earlier this month in a 65-53 loss. The score in this game was very close for a large majority of play, but several mistakes on Southern’s end (fouls, shooting) cost them the game.

During this matchup, three of UNI’s starters scored in the double digits. The Salukis will have a shot at redeeming themselves as they are scheduled to take on the Panthers in the last two weeks of conference play. Junior Ellie Howell leads Northern Iowa in scoring and is a excellent three point shooter, but this does not stop at Howell.

SIU matches up very well with this three point shooting team as they have several sharp shooters on their tea who have an inside and outside game. UNI will take on MSU, Southern, Bradley, and ISU. Depending on the losses of the number one seeds the Panthers may have the opportunity to move up, but they could also lose their second place position.

4. Bradley: The Bradley University Braves are currently tied for third in the MVC. The Braves hold an overall record of 18-7 and a conference record of 8-6. This team is only on a one game win streak after losing to MSU and SIU.

After splitting the season with Southern we can assume a matchup between the two teams in conference could be anyone’s game. The Braves are a great shooting team, so the Dawgs would have to bring a strong defensive energy to a potential tournament matchup against them.

Bradley’s final games of the season will be against Valpo, Loyola, UNI, and Drake. We shouldn’t see any upward movement from this team in the rankings, but we could see downward movement if they lose a majority of their remaining games. After these games, BU will either solidify their third place spot or fall to the fourth or fifth positions.

5. Illinois State: The Redbirds are caught in a tie for third place with the Braves. This team has an overall record of 15-10 and a conference record of 8-6.

Unlike their other top competitors, the Redbirds are on a losing streak as they were defeated by their third place rival, Bradley. This loss may give the Braves an edge for upcoming tournament seeding, but again, these next few weeks are crucial for all Valley teams.

While the Salukis were swept by this year’s Redbird team, they only lost the second matchup by a mere two points in the final seconds of the game. Anyone who was in attendance at this game knows SIU is very capable of beating this ISU team. Much of Illinois State’s game is in the paint through their senior center Simone Goods.

Goods is a big body and very tough to guard, but Southern proved they could handle this. Illinois State’s outside game isn’t too threatening, but it cannot be underestimated. In the coming weeks, like the Braves, the Redbirds will take on Loyola, Valpo, Drake and UNI.

6. Southern Illinois: The Salukis are in the fourth place position in the MVC. They hold an overall record of 13-12 and an MVC record of 6-8.

SIU is currently riding a two game win streak with their most recent loss coming from ISU. While this year’s team has had a rough season, they are still full of talent. The Dawgs are one of youngest teams in the Valley with no starting seniors.

This team has a very good chance to make an impact in this year’s conference tournament, but their chances will greatly increase next year when they have a more seasoned team.

Not only can the Salukis dominate in the paint with Nicole Martin, who is third in the MVC in field goal percentage, they are able to run the floor easily and shoot the mid range and the three with Makenzie Silvey, Kristen Nelson, Payton McCallister, and Abby Brockmeyer. Furthermore, SIU has arguably one of the best point guards in the MVC this season with Brittney Patrick.

She moves the ball well and is consistent in taking care of the ball. Patrick currently leads the MVC in assists per game with 4.9, total assists with 113, and assist to turnover ratio with 2.13. It seems the Salukis have a complete team. They just have to put all of the pieces together.

I believe that by the conference tournament they will. Over the course of the next two weeks, Southern will take on Drake, UNI, Indiana State and Evansville.

7. Loyola Chicago: Loyola Chicago, holds the fifth place position in the Valley. The Ramblers sit very close to Southern in conference rankings holding an overall record of 12-14 and a conference record of 6-9.

Loyola is currently on a two game losing streak after falling to Missouri State and Southern. The Salukis swept the Ramblers this season winning the first game 64-41 and the second 74-63.

The Chicago team is full of excellent three point shooters, one of which is Janae Gonzales who scored 30 points against the Dawgs in January. Before the MVC tournament, the Ramblers will play Illinois State, Bradley, and Valpo. They have a chance to catch SIU before the tournament but I predict they will finish behind the Salukis.

Overall, the MVC has been a battle on both the men and women’s ends with major upsets and surprising conference leaders. Almost every team in the conference is extremely talented and this is why there have been so many ties.

I believe the Salukis have a very good chance at winning the trophy this season because of the depth and of their team. The next few weeks will us a better idea of tournament outcomes but I’m choosing to put my faith in Southern head coach Cindy Stein and her team.

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

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