Salukis fight against first game nerves

Salukis fight against first game nerves

By Symone Woolridge

he SIU women’s basketball team began its season with an exhibition game against Division II Maryville University, which proved to be a constant battle until the very end.

With a new coaching staff and a fairly young team, the Salukis ended their Friday night with a win as the women defeated the Saints 67-60.

Sophomore forward Dyana Pierre scored 10 points in the first half, completing her night with 10 total points and 12 rebounds.

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Neither team led by more than five points throughout the first half. With the score tied at 34 in the final seconds of the first half, junior guard Mercedes Griffin launched a 3-point buzzer beater to put the Salukis up by three heading into halftime.

The women had taken six 3-point attempts in their first nine field goals. Coach Stein said nerves might have caused the long shot attempts.

“Six 3-pointers, are you serious?” Stein said. “No, we want a layup.”

Nerves are expected to come from first-year athletes, but the upperclassmen said they experience it as well. Junior guard Cartaesha

Macklin said being nervous is something that happens before every game.

“No matter what division we play or who we play the nerves are always there,” Macklin said. “Once I really get started, it’s just something that I need to get out.”

Macklin said the Salukis started off well offensively and defensively, and she ended her night with 10 points and three steals.

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Sophomore guard Rishonda Napier said her team has a lot to work on before the end of the season.

“Being able to get the nerves out really helped but we all have things to work on,” Napier said. “Things like defensive rotations, finishing plays, finishing defensive plays, boxing out, and fouling.”

Collecting only five wins last season, the Salukis are hoping to correct last year’s mistakes. This year, the women are working to tighten their defense.

The Salukis committed 13 fouls in the first half and nine in the second. Stein said the coaching staff is pushing the Salukis to play closer defense on the opposing team.

“When I first got here, our defense was so far away from the player,” Stein said. “So it’s one of those things where we’ve had to push them to get up within an arms length.”

Stein said the Saluki staff knew the women were going to be in the position to foul and are still adjusting to play together defensively.

With three freshmen and a new staff, all of the athletes are learning new things. Stein said the coach’s goals are to transform the women into better athletes.

“Everything that we’ve told them is brand new to their brain so they’re on an overload,” Stein said. “From our warm up to what we do after the game to how we sit in the locker room to how we sit on the bench is all new to them.”

During the second half, the women finally created space to gather momentum as they went on a 12-3 run with 11:44 remaining. Napier scored six of her 10 points during the run and the Salukis worked their way up to a 12-point lead.

Although the Salukis were outscoring them, the Saints never gave up. Maryville cut the deficit to 60-54 with less than

ive minutes remaining. Once Stein noticed the Salukis were being deprived of confidence, she called a timeout.

“They came back to the bench hanging their heads and we were ahead,” Stein said. “So you have to snap that out of them because their confidence is low and I’m not sure if they thought they were going to win or not.”

Stein tried to pump adrenaline into the Salukis, letting them know that losing the game was not an option.

“They are used to going into a funk at that time,” Stein said. “We just need to reignite what we are trying to do and emphasize it.”

Every Saluki who played in Friday’s game scored, but Stein said the women have to be better students of the game.

“I can’t say that we are great basketball students but I think we are getting better,” she said. “We have to watch more video and get them to understand situations.”

The Salukis will compete in their next exhibition game Saturday where they will face Lindenwood University at SIU arena.

Symone Woolridge can be reached at [email protected]

or ext. 536-3311 ext. 269.

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