SIU fights off UT Martin for 70-59 victory

With the Saluki women’s basketball team and the UT Martin Skyhawks tied 46-46 heading into the fourth quarter, tonight’s matchup at Banterra Center could have been anyone’s game. 

SIU (5-2) found a 12-point scoring run less than three minutes deep into the fourth that made the difference, allowing the Salukis a 70-59 victory over the Skyhawks for their third win in a row.

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The Skyhawks (2-5) came into tonight’s game off of a 70-47 loss to the Illinois State Redbirds on Nov. 30. 

So far this season UT Martin has faced two top-25 ranked teams ,#10 Mississippi State and #23 Gonzaga. 

Southern led 36-27 at the half after the Skyhawks opened up play with a large scoring run, but lost their advantage after UT Martin outscored them 19-10 in the third quarter. 

“We got a little complacent with our lead once we came back from [being down] 9-0. We got a lead and we were happy with it, and that allowed them to come back in the game,” junior guard Mackenzie Silvey said. “ We know we can go on a run, especially with our defense and our transitions, so I think that’s what let us pull away at the end.” 

Silvey finished the night with a team-high 20 points, with 12 coming in the first half and the remaining eight in the final quarter. 

Senior guard Kristen Nelson, junior forward Abby Brockmeyer, and senior forward Nicole Martin each contributed double-digit points as well, Nelson with 14 while Brockmeyer had 11 and Martin had 10. 

Southern totaled eight steals for the night on defense, but UT Martin’s defense also created 17 turnovers for the Salukis.

“Defensively, I was very pleased with our movement. I felt like we made adjustments quickly, and that’s one thing that we’ve improved [on],” head coach Cindy Stein said. “If you look at the defense, there’s a lot of fouls, there’s a lot of turnovers, […] both teams are playing physical. We talked about the fact that the grittiest team was going to be the one that came out.”

Junior forward Chelsey Perry led with 24 points to go along with five rebounds for the night against SIU. 

This week Perry received the Ohio Valley Conference’s Player of the Week recognition.

“It’s hard to prepare for someone that’s that long and athletic, but I think our practice team did a good job,” Silvey said. 

Two minutes into play UT Martin held a 7-0 lead over the Salukis with a three-pointer and a jumper from Perry as well as a layup from sophomore guard Damiah Griffin. 

“Once the game got going we were pretty effective [against Perry]. We knew she would look to take those shots, but I don’t think we were actually prepared for her to hit them. But once we made our adjustments, I think we did a pretty good job on her,” Silvey said.

SIU took their first lead of the game 16-15 near the end of the first quarter off of an 8-0 scoring run. 

The Salukis carried this momentum into the second quarter, rattling off another 10 points in a row before two Skyhawk free throws by junior Maddie Waldrop broke their scoring run. 

Junior forward Awa Keita had her five points in the second quarter to help give the Salukis a boost from the bench. 

“I thought Awa came in and did some really nice things in that first half. I felt like our bench came in and helped us win, and I think that’s where we’re a lot better this year,” Stein said.

UT Martin regrouped with a strong third quarter, shooting 6-13 from the field and hitting seven out of nine free throws. 

“I felt like we got lazy at times. In the game of basketball you’ve got to play with energy and passion, and we didn’t have that coming out in that third quarter. But we found it in the fourth,” Stein said. 

Southern Illinois finished out the game with a 24-13 scoring run, spearheaded by Silvey and Nelson. 

“I think we started playing better defensively, and that gave us a lot of push on the offensive side,” Nelson said.

The difference for the Salukis was their help from their subs, as well as their conditioning, Stein said. 

“I didn’t think anybody was going to be able to play the entire time out there in the fourth quarter. I do have complete confidence in Awa and Gabby, and they gave us great minutes,” Stein said. “[…] We got stops, for one. And then, we pushed the ball up the floor, I didn’t feel like we were tired, […] and I felt like we were wearing on them a bit.”

The Salukis will travel to Cape Girardeau, Mo. on Saturday to face the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks (4-1). Tipoff is set for 6:30 P.M. at the ShowMe Center. 

Sports reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25.

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