CARBONDALE — A steady defense overcame early offensive deficiencies as the Southern Illinois University women defeated Indiana State 54-43 at the SIU Arena Thursday.
The Salukis shot just 39 percent from the floor, but held the Sycamores to 28 percent shooting. SIU also forced Indiana State into 17 turnovers.
“There were times our defense looked awesome,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein. “There were times we looked like we didn’t know what we were doing. We were a lot better most of the time, than not. I feel like our defense was really active at time. There were some turnovers there we didn’t cause, let’s be honest.”
Perhaps SIU’s best defensive stretch came with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
Indiana State’s Ashley Taia hit a long 3-pointer with 4:27 remaining to slice SIU’s lead to a tenuous 47-42. That proved to be the Sycamores final field goal of the game.
SIU created just one turnover during that stretch, but the Sycamores had four straight one-and-done possessions.
“It was the emphasis in practice this week, defense and getting stops,” said SIU senior Kylie Giebelhausen. “As much as we focused on what they do offensively and defensively, the point of emphasis was getting hands in the passing lanes, high hands on the ball, dancing around the post and boxing out. We had to be disciplined and talk.”
While Indiana State struggled, SIU pushed the lead to 12 points with a 7-0 run. Giebelhausen had five of those points with a couple buckets inside and a free throw. Makenzie Silvey added a pair of free throws.
The Salukis did a much better job of getting the ball to the low post in the second half.
“I felt like we were staring at them (post players) the first half,” Stein said. “Obviously, our posts are a big part of our offense. I feel like our ball movement was better, our screens were so much better. Our posts are reading what the defense is giving them better. We had a game where we finally started seeing some of those things.”
The stronger inside effort allowed the Salukis to get to the free throw line in the fourth quarter. SIU made 8-of-9 free throws in the fourth quarter.
SIU’s play on the glass was decidedly better in the second half. The Sycamores had eight offensive rebounds at halftime, but finished the game with just 11.
“Coach Stein mentioned that at halftime, we were giving up too many offensive rebounds,” said freshman guard Makenzie Silvey. “I think for most of the game we did a good job of boxing out, but they took some long shots that led to long rebounds that just kind of went over our head. The second half we did a better job of adjusting and getting our hands on those rebounds.”
Despite the victory, the Salukis seemed to be a step slow, particularly in the first half.
“We weren’t tired all week,” Giebelhausen said. “I think we were ready to play. I don’t know if it was a Thursday game instead of a Friday game, that threw us off. I think us talking and boxing out and us doing some disciplined things helped us battle against some of the fatigue and slowness we started off with.”
“Our kids came around,” Stein said. “I thought we started flat, but we had some good defensive plays that came around and helped us on the defensive end. I felt like our kids did a good job offensively, doing some of the things we wanted to do … good spacing, much better.”
Abby Brockmeyer led the Salukis with 13 points while Giebelhausen had a dozen and Nicole Martin 10.
Point guard Ashli O’Neal led Indiana State with 17.
The Salukis will close the regular season at home Saturday, facing Evansville at 2 p.m.