SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Southern Illinois University women's basketball team dropped a narrow 75-65 decision to the University of Miami on Wednesday in its final game at the Puerto Rico Classic.
Three Salukis scored in double figures, led by Nicole Martin's efficient 14 points. The sophomore forward was 5-of-6 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. It marked her second-straight double-digit scoring output. Kristen Nelson finished with 14 points and Kylie Giebelhausen added 12 points for SIU.
SIU won the rebounding battle, 36-to-34 against a Miami team that had a considerable height and length advantage. The Salukis also forced 20 Miami turnovers but were ultimately undone by late turnovers and defensive miscues coupled with timely clutch shooting by the Hurricanes. Miami's Keyanna Harris, who came into the contest shooting just 7% from three-point range this season, hit a pair from long range over the final 2:39 to help the 'Canes pull away late.
"I'm disappointed that we lost, but I thought our kids fought hard," said coach Cindy Stein. "I think if we clean up some of the mistakes, we will be okay."
The Salukis (5-6) came out swinging in the first quarter, as an and-one by Ashley Hummel gave SIU its first lead at 10-9. The two sides traded baskets from there with a put back at the buzzer by Lauren Hartman cutting Miami's deficit to two, 21-19.
On SIU's first possession of the second quarter, Kristen Nelson slipped by her defender and went straight to the basket to tie the game at 21. The Hurricanes responded with five-straight points before baskets by Nelson and Hummel again got SIU within one, 26-25. Miami quickly ran off eight-straight points to build a nine-point cushion, with Hummel's second three-pointer ending Miami's run. The Salukis got to within four, but the Hurricanes closed the period on a 7-0 run to take a 43-32 lead at the half.
Miami (9-3) pushed its lead to as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but the Salukis countered with a 10-2 run over a 4:33 stretch to get to within five. The Hurricanes margin remained at five, 54-49, at the end of three periods.
Nicole Martin, who had two points in the first half, got going over the final 20 minutes of play. She scored 10 second half points before heading to the bench with her fourth foul with 5:22 to play. She returned shortly after, as her layup off a beautiful outlet pass from Giebelhausen got SIU to within three, 61-58. SIU again cut the deficit to three on a jumper by Silvey, but the Hurricanes hit a pair of three-pointers and outscored the Salukis, 12-5 down the stretch to seal the win.
With the loss, the Salukis end non-conference play. SIU will have more than a week off before its Missouri Valley Conference opener against Evansville on Dec. 29th. Coach Stein believes the break will serve her team well as it heads into conference play.
"We've got some smart kids that have gotten a ton of time and we're still making the same mistakes," said Stein. "We've got to get better. Our body language has been bad and our emotional maturity has to get stronger to play in a tough conference. I think we have it, but overall its been inconsistent. We'll clean that up over break. Sometimes you need a good break to start the conference season."