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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Intriguing.

That’s probably the most accurate description for the 2017-18 Saluki women’s basketball team.

Young is another apt description. The team’s youth adds to the intrigue.

Cindy Stein’s young team currently stands at 3-2. The last game was a 57-53 loss to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. In the post-game interview, Stein used the word inexperienced at least a dozen times.

It’s hard to argue with her assessment on any level.

The cold hard facts from Monday’s game – 11 players saw the floor, eight were freshmen and sophomores. Eight players saw more than five minutes of playing time, six were freshmen and sophomores.

Freshmen and sophomores provided 60 percent of the scoring, 56 percent of the rebounds. Those numbers make it clear that citing inexperience isn’t a crutch.

But, it isn’t the scoring and rebounding numbers that stand out from Monday’s loss. It was turnovers, 21 turnovers, turnovers that SIUE converted into 23 points.

Few of the turnovers were the result of violations. Most were the result of errant passes – either just poor throws or players being out of position or cutting the wrong way. The kind of mistakes that can be ironed out with time on the practice floor.

Had just two or three of those errant passes met their intended target, Saluki fans might be talking about an auspicious 4-1 start.

Kylie Giebelhausen in the lone upperclassmen in the starting lineup.

The 6-foot-1 East Peoria native will go down as one of the most complete players in SIU history. She crossed the 1,000-point barrier Monday night. She is one of the best 3-point shooters in school history. Giebelhausen has more than 400 rebounds and will finish second or third in school history in blocked shots.

She essentially played the entire game, getting a 20-second break at the end of the third quarter.

Giebelhausen and Celina VanHyfte, a redshirt junior, are the only upperclassmen getting significant minutes.

Without a doubt, Giebelhausen is the physical and spiritual leader of this team. On the other hand, success this season will hinge on the talents of sophomores Nicole Martin, Kristen Nelson and Brittney Patrick, all of whom played significant minutes last year.

The Salukis are also counting heavily on freshmen Abby Brockmeyer, Makenzie Silvey and Rachel Pudlowski. The freshmen trio have relegated some returning players to bench duty.

Brockmeyer, a forward who can rebound and put the ball on the floor, has made the biggest impact to date. The Raymond native already has a pair of Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week awards.

It’s been a while since the Salukis have had a player with the combination of power and skill Brockmeyer brings to the floor.

Silvey is the second freshman starter. She led the Salukis with 15 points against SIUE. The Edwardsville High School graduate has a smooth jumper from beyond the arc and handles the ball well enough to create her own shots.

Without a doubt, this team will experience growing pains. There will be games like Monday night.

But, there were several moments Monday night when the talent of the young players carried the team and that is precisely what makes this team intriguing.

LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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