Finding the flow: Women’s basketball adjusts after two home losses

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

After losing two very close conference matchups this weekend, Southern Illinois women’s basketball recognizes that cleaning up their execution of plays on the offensive end and sinking free throws would have helped make the difference. 

The Salukis (9-6, 1-3 MVC) dropped their home-opening MVC matchup to Northern Iowa 60-57 on Jan. 10 and the following matchup to Drake 73-65 on Jan. 12.

Saluki head coach Cindy Stein said her team had several areas to improve in after the UNI matchup, with free throws being one of them.

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“I felt like our defense was pretty solid today [and] I thought we had some good play coming off the bench that helped us get back in the game in the first half,” Stein said. “I’m disappointed in our offense [and] our execution of our plays and the lack of details and I’m disappointed in our free throw shooting.”

After trailing the Panthers 17-9 in the first quarter and hitting only three out of 17 shots, the Salukis found their momentum before the half off of four 3-pointers, including two from sophomore guard Payton McAllister. 

Northern Iowa was down 35-33 at halftime, but came out of the locker room after the break to go on a nine-point run.

“We knew it was going to be a game of runs,” junior forward Abby Brockmeyer said. “They took the first run and then we came back strong and kind of leveled it out, but we can’t really let them get ahead like that.”

The Salukis struggled from here to find a way back in the game, and Brockmeyer attributed this to lack of offensive execution.

“We can’t run the plays right, and then everyone’s confused and offense isn’t flowing good. So, I think we need to work on that a lot, [because] that’s a huge part of the game,” Brockmeyer said.

The junior forward also said Northern Iowa’s defense collapsing into the paint was a struggle for the players in the post.

“I think we struggled at first but I think we came around. It’s tough in the post when you turn your head and there’s three people on you,” Brockmeyer said. “Even coach said we weren’t working the ball enough, we were taking quick shots, contested shots.”

Stein said she thinks the team has great depth in the post and that will win them a lot of games.

“It’s hard [not] to struggle when you’ve got a couple of kids on you. It’s tough. Northern Iowa did a great job of making our offense rush,” Stein said. 

Stein also said Southern’s 13-for-24 (54.16%) finish at the free throw line is something the team needs to change. 

“Free throws have been killing us the last couple of games, and if you look at our losses and if [we would have] hit our free throws, we win those games,” Stein said. “At this point in the season, it’s too early in the conference to freak out, but we’ve got to do something.”

The Salukis have been spending a lot of extra time in the gym working on putting up extra shots and are hoping to see more fruits for their labor, Stein said. 

“Some of it’s nerves, […] but they almost want it too much that they’re overplaying, they’re over-pushing, and we keep talking to them about slowing things down and being more patient,” Stein said.

Sunday’s matchup against Drake was another close one for the Salukis. After three quarters of neck-and-neck competition, Southern hit a dry spell in the fourth period, allowing Drake extend their lead and come out with the win.

Southern improved their free throw performance in this matchup, going 11-for-16 from the line (68.8%), but their offensive execution, according to Stein, still needs work.

“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.”

Stein said the Salukis execute the offense well when the ball is continuously moving.

“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.”

SIU takes the floor again in the Banterra Center on Friday evening at 6 p.m. and Stein has no doubt that her team will continue to grow and see success.

“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.”

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

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