Drake powers past Salukis 91-76

By Brooke Buerck, Sports Reporter

With 10 minutes left to play, Southern Illinois women’s basketball had a nine-point gap to close against the Drake University Bulldogs, but couldn’t find the momentum to gain the lead on Drake’s home floor. 

On Feb. 7, the Salukis traveled to Des Moines to take on Drake University and fell 91-76 at the Knapp Center. 

“As I told them, I think our team plays hard all the time. I never question that. But, our team had some bonehead plays, honestly. I am not pleased with our play today,” Saluki head coach Cindy Stein said. “We had a lot of lack of execution coming out of timeouts, and [when] you get it within nine a couple of times, your defense has to step it up and we didn’t have anybody [who] wanted to be a stopper today.”

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Drake carried their momentum from the first quarter throughout the game, jumping out to a 24-15 lead with the help of senior guard Becca Hitner’s 10 points in the first 10 minutes. 

Hitner finished the night with 31 points, which is six shy of her season-high 37 points against Northern Iowa on Jan. 3. 

The Bulldogs held onto their lead at halftime after heading into the locker room with the 46-31 advantage.

Drake’s home crowd of 2,882 combined with the noise of the pep band contributed to the Salukis’ struggle for the night, Stein said.

“It’s really hard when it’s that loud in a building and your kids aren’t used to it. I’d love to have our crowd like that because our kids would be used to it,” Stein said. “As much as I don’t like how we’ve played, you’ve got to kind of go through it to understand what it’s about, because it’s hard to simulate it.”

At the end of the third quarter the Salukis held Drake to a lead under 10 points, but weren’t able to find any break in the fourth quarter against the Bulldogs. 

Drake finished 33-for-52 from the field and made 15 3-pointers on 25 attempts. 

“[It’s] not that we weren’t trying [defensively], it’s just we’re trying out of position, we’re rotating when it’s too early, we’re rotating too late, we don’t get a box out on a missed shot… those are the kind of things we have to be able to manage,” Stein said. 

Drake also capitalized at the free throw line, knocking down 10 of 12 shots.

Southern shot 30-for-67 from the field and went 12-for-18 alone in the third quarter in the Salukis’ efforts to rally. 

“I just thought we had some good movement. When we’re in sync, we do a really good job of moving the ball, but when we’re playing that hard defensively and then we have to get into a full court defensive game, we got out of sync,” Stein said.

Senior forward Nicole Martin led her team with 22 points for the night, finishing 9-for-14 from the field and making all four free throws.

Junior guard Makenzie Silvey added an additional 17 points individually while making three 3-pointers, and senior guard Kristen Nelson finished with 11 points.

SIU finished with a total of 19 steals compared to Drake’s 24 turnovers; Silvey and senior guard Brittney Patrick each had five apiece. 

“We’ve got to take this as a great learning tool right now and get better from it,” Stein said.

Southern will turn around to play University of Northern Iowa on Feb. 9.

Tipoff at Cedar Falls is set for 2:00 p.m. 

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

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