The one that got away: Salukis lose sight of Drake after a slow fourth quarter

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Editor

The Salukis battled with no fear in their game against Drake, disregarding the Bulldogs’ preseason polls and previous national rankings. 

Despite being ranked fifth in this year’s MVC Preseason Poll, the SIU women’s basketball team took the floor Sunday against the Drake University Bulldogs, who were ranked the number one polled team, with confidence and a chip on their shoulder.

The Drake women’s team has always been a top performer in the Missouri Valley Conference, earning several conference championships and making NCAA tournament appearances.

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This didn’t seem to be a factor for the Salukis.

Southern (9-6, 1-3 MVC) took the lead several times in this neck-and-neck battle, but seemed to run out of steam in the final quarter of the game falling short in a 73-65 loss to the Bulldogs.

“I am proud of our kids. I thought that during 75-80% of the game, we were right where we needed to be,” Saluki head coach Cindy Stein said. “We still have to clean up that other 20% […and] we have to clean up our turnovers [and] execute our plays a little bit better.”

Drake (10-5, 2-1 MVC) bested the Salukis in both scoring and rebounding in the fourth period, as the Bulldogs tallied 19 points and nine rebounds to SIU’s 12 and five.

Southern’s stats worsened in the fourth quarter as far a field goal and three-point percentages giving Drake an opportunity to solidify their lead.

Overall, Southern shot 40% from the field and went 11-for-16 from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs out-performed the Salukis in both of these categories as they shot at 60% from the field and went 14-for-17 from the stripe.

When the teams faced off last March, SIUC came close to upsetting Drake, but fell short in the fourth quarter with a score of 71-64 almost mirroring today’s outcome.

“I feel like we locked up a little bit in that fourth quarter because of the situation and us wanting it so bad,” Stein said. “We’re just going to continue working on being gritty and finding a way to win.”

For every basket the Bulldogs scored, Southern had an answer with the game tying on three separate occasions in the first quarter alone. 

It seemed that Drake ran away with the lead after they struck a 5-1 scoring run, but three SIU 3-pointers quickly relieved the deficit and tied the game 19-all at the end of the first quarter.

After a second period full of neck-and-neck scoring,  the Salukis had the final say entering halftime when they went on a 4-1 scoring run that included a 3-point buzzer-beater from senior forward Nicole Martin. Martin’s 3-pointer put SIU up 39-35 at the half.

Martin was the leading scorer for Southern Illinois with 19 points.

Southern held onto their lead until the 7 minute mark in the following quarter. The lead was lost after Drake senior forward Sara Rhine scored a layup to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead. 

Rhine notched a points-rebounds double-double in tonight’s game with 10 in each category.

A three-point conversion play by junior guard Makenzie Silvey allowed the Salukis to regain the lead that they were able to maintain until the final two minutes of the quarter. After the Bulldogs regained the lead, they held onto it for the remainder of the game.

Silvey would finish with 13 points and five rebounds.

“We have to stop trying doing one-on-one so much because when you go one-on-one for your scorers, your shooting percentage usually isn’t very good,” Stein said. “Our percentage was really good in the first half because we moved the ball around very well and we got people open as well, but I think we lost sight of that.”

In both the first and second periods, the Salukis either tied or out-scored the Bulldogs when it came to points, but in the final half of the game Southern was out-scored by Drake in both the third and fourth quarters.

Despite her team having dropped three games in a row, Stein said she is not concerned about the Salukis’ future.

“I’m honestly not worried about us,” Stein said. “I feel like we’re going to be okay and we’re going to work hard to get those three games that we lost back.”

Southern will remain at home for their next matchup this Friday against the Missouri State Bears. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.

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

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