CARBONDALE — Little things can add up to big trouble.
The Saluki women missed point-blank shots, they gave up 15 offensive rebounds and they hit just 14-of-27 free throws. As a result, they found themselves leading Martin Methodist just 51-50 with 4:37 remaining.
However, the Salukis closed the game on a 9-0 run to nail down a 60-50 win over the NAIA school in front of 2,222 screaming grade school students on Field Trip Day.
For the first five minutes of fourth quarter, SIU rarely had the ball on the offensive end. Martin Methodist had four offensive rebounds during that stretch. The Redhawks closed the lead to 51-50 on Jemia Carpenter’s runout.
Freshman Rachel Pudlowski scored her only basket of the game on a strong move to the bucket which seemingly turned the momentum. Abby Brockmeyer, another freshmen, added two more scores from close range to finally give the Salukis some breathing room.
“We decided to control things,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein matter-of-factly. “We quit freaking out, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so close’ to ‘Hey, let’s win this.’ It was a mental change as well as a physical change.”
In the opening minutes, it appeared as if SIU would run away with the game. The Salukis pounded the ball inside to Nicole Martin for a couple easy buckets while Brittney Patrick and Kylie Giebelhausen hit from the perimeter.
By the 4:40 mark, SIU had built a 13-2 lead. But, things went south from there.
“Things were pretty easy to start with,” Stein said. “I don’t think that helped our mentality. Then we went through a little bit of a panic mode, some of them. I think just that, having to go through that, makes us better. If we don’t learn from this, I don’t know what will make them learn.”
By the end of the quarter, Martin Methodist had closed to within 18-12. And, the next 25 minutes were a struggle.
“I feel like anytime we get a decent lead on a team, regardless of their division, we get comfortable,” said senior guard Kylie Giebelhausen. “And, we act like we don’t have to play defense any more and there is still 30 minutes left in the game. We get this cushion and we get comfortable with where we’re at and slack off a little bit.”
But, it was more than just lackluster defense. Stein rattled off a list of SIU’s shortcomings.
“There were a lot of little things that went wrong that spiraled,” she said. “We missed point blank shots and we really wanted to get our inside game going because we felt we had an advantage there. But, it’s tough when we’re missing such easy shots. Then, the other post wasn’t rebounding. When the ball goes inside, the other post is supposed to dive, so we never got the other side of the boards.
“We missed countless rebounds. Our weakside rotation was never there. Our press, which was pretty good in the past had a lot of holes. We just let people dribble right through us. I think we underestimated their speed a little bit. We had to learn while we were flying. We had a lot of young kids having to figure out ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do now? I’m not playing well, my shot’s not falling.’ There were a lot of things individuals had to figure out that we had to get grouped together as a team.”
And, for part of the game, the Salukis allowed the Redhawks to be the aggressors.
“I think when you play (lower division) teams, you still have to come with the same intensity,” Patrick said. “I don’t think we did that today. They just out-hustled us. And, some of the categories we usually excel in … it was just a battle.”
But, the Salukis were able to right the ship in the final four minutes.
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves this game,” Stein said. “I think they did a fantastic job of making us earn everything. I think we’ll walk away from this figuring out a lot of things about ourselves. We’ll get better.”
Martin finished with 16 points, the only Saluki to reach double figures. She also led the team with eight rebounds.
Carpenter led Martin Methodist with 11 points.