CARBONDALE – Inexperience leads to hesitant play, which leads to turnovers, which lead to scoring droughts, which lead to losses.

That was the story Monday when Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville scored 23 points off 21 Saluki turnovers. The Cougars knocked off SIU 57-53.

“We have to play with a lot more confidence than we did,” said Saluki coach Cindy Stein. “A lot of that is inexperience. We have freshmen and sophomores out there. Sometimes this is the first time they’re going through that kind of pressure. I felt like they put some really good pressure on us. It was a physical ballgame. Sometimes you have to go through the fire to figure that out. We got handed a loss because we didn’t stand up to that.”

The turnover bug was particularly big in the first quarter. The Salukis trailed by as many as 11 points in the first quarter. SIU rallied to trail by just a point at intermission.

In the third quarter the team seemed to get untracked, 11-3 run to open an eight point lead. However, turnovers allowed the Cougars to tie the game at 42 going into the fourth quarter.

“We just kind of did that to ourselves,” said senior forward Kylie Giebelhausen. “We hesitated, or we got a lead and got too comfortable. We didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t play as aggressive as we came out in the second half, and that led to turnovers, just personal mistakes to fix.

“They overplayed the passing lanes, we didn’t backdoor cut, or whoever had the ball wasn’t reading that as well. We were kind of stagnant at times. Like when we got comfortable with the lead, we just stopped moving.”

To compound matters, the Salukis turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the fourth quarter, allowing the Cougars to piece together an 8-0 run. Six of the eight points came on long buzzer-beating 3-pointers by Nakiah Bell.

“Those were daggers man,” Stein said. “When you fight that hard … those were two really contested shots too. I think one was over Kylie and I think the other was over (Kristen) Nelson. She’s a great player. She played very confident. They played confident, but that’s what experience does for you. Our kids are still playing like they’re a little unsure of what they should do.”

“They were tough shots and they went in,” Giebelhausen said. “It kind of changed the momentum and I think we hung our heads a little bit. They got hyped up. It was only a six-point difference.

“We were the ones with all the energy and all of a sudden they’re the ones with all the energy. We’re hanging our heads and running back like we lost the game and there is still another 7-8 minutes to play.”

Gielbelhausen broke the Edwardsville string with a 15-footer. The Salukis forced turnovers on the next two possessions, but failed to capitalize. Still trailing by four with just over a minute to play, SIU again forced a pair of turnovers but couldn’t shave points off the deficit.

“It’s just missed opportunities,” said SIU freshman Abby Brockmeyer. “It’s something we’ll look to improve on. It’s very frustrating, but it’s something you just have to keep moving on.”

“It was real frustrating,” Stein said. “Our offense is designed a certain way, and we weren’t even getting them in the spots they were supposed to be in. Some of that is lack of experience. We drew up something that could get us a three and possibly get fouled on it. Our timing was off because … it’s just inexperience.”

Freshman Makenzie Silvey led SIU with 15 points. Giebelhausen scored 13, becoming the 25th player in SIU history to top 1,000 points.

Lauren White led Edwardsville with 18 points. Bell had 15.

The Salukis go on the road to face Morehead State at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

les.winkeler@thesouthern.com / 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler

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