CARBONDALE — SIU’s defense was impenetrable at times Friday night.
The Saluki women held Loyola scoreless for the first 6:35 of the game. No Loyola player scored in double figures. SIU forced a season-high 26 turnovers and rode that effort to a 62-46 win over the Ramblers.
“In the first quarter especially, we executed what we had planned to do in practices,” said senior forward Kylie Giebelhausen. “We were switching. We had active hands. We had guards guarding their post players. We had post players playing perimeter defense. It was really effective. I think we relaxed a little bit in the second quarter because we got comfortable.”
After giving up just six points in the first quarter, SIU saw Loyola score 18 in the second. And, despite keeping the Ramblers off the board for most of the first quarter, the Salukis led just 29-24 at intermission.
“We have to get on them sometimes to continue playing defense,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein. “When we get some early blocks we start getting a little lazy. We start letting them have angles because we think we’re going to block it every time. We always have that lesson to our team, we can’t worry about that kind of stuff. We just have to play solid defense. I thought we had some good play sporadically.”
After leading by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Salukis saw that advantage dwindle to two when Loyola’s Jessica Cerda hit a trey to open the second half. That proved to be a wake-up call as SIU rattled off 11 straight points to assume control of the game.
Kristen Nelson started the string with a 3-pointer and Makenzie Silvey, Abby Brockmeyer and Nicole Martin all scored as the Salukis stretched the lead back to double digits.
“Our timing was off the entire game on offense,” Stein said. “Our kids continue to battle. We came up with big shots when we needed to extend our lead. I guess a win is a win.”
And, when Loyola managed to chip away at SIU’s lead, the Salukis seemed to get a key turnover or hit a timely 3-pointer to keep the Ramblers at arm’s length.
“We got those turnovers from that disciplined defense,” Gielbelhausen said. “When we weren’t playing with it, that’s when they scored on us. I think we kind of figured that out in the second half when we made our run.”
Freshmen Silvey and Brockmeyer led SIU with 16 points. Martin added 11.
“I thought Makenzie was really good in the first half,” Stein said. “I thought Abby was really good in the second half. Kylie, I think it was a hard day at the office for her, but that kid continues to battle. She hit the boards hard. She had a lot of deflections. She got three steals. She’s still doing things out there as much as she struggled offensively.”
Silvey and Brockmeyer combined to hit 6-of-8 treys.
“I think that’s (offensive balance) really important for a team like ours that is trying to win a championship,” Silvey said. “If somebody is struggling, somebody else can pick them up. I think we have multiple players capable of going off any night. Everybody is capable of it.”
The win was No. 350 for Stein.
“I think the only significance is it shows I’ve had some pretty good players to have the honor to coach,” she said. “You have to have the players to have those kind of wins.”
The Salukis play the second game of a three-game homestand at 11:15 a.m. Sunday against Valparaiso. It will be the first time SIU meets Valpo in MVC play.