DES MOINES — Of all the inhospitable places the SIU women visit every year in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Knapp Center ranks near the top of the list.
But the Salukis picked the second half on Thursday night to arguably play their best 20 minutes of the season and the result was a 60-49 win over Drake.
SIU (8-5, 3-0) trailed 33-27 at the half but outscored the Bulldogs 33-16 in the second half, holding them to eight points in each of the final two quarters. Drake (9-7, 1-4) converted just 6 of 29 shots from the field in the half, including 8 of 18 in the fourth period.
Making it more amazing was that the Bulldogs not only scored nearly 30 points under their per game average, but that the Salukis overcame terrible foul trouble inside. Abby Brockmeyer and Gabby Walker each played the last 8:47 with four fouls. Neither picked up her fifth.
“I think it might have been divine intervention,” joked SIU coach Cindy Stein. “We knew Drake was going to attack them, but we just told them to play defense with their feet. The pressure was on them because we had the lead.”
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The Salukis took the lead for good with 2:04 left in the third quarter when Makenzie Silvey drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 42-41. The shot boosted Silvey into second place on the school’s career scoring list ahead of Rishonda Napier.
That was just one of the highlights of Silvey’s 20-point, 12-rebound double-double. Silvey has 1,733 points, 46 behind Cartaesha Macklin for No. 1 on the list. But Stein was, at least on this night, more impressed with Silvey’s boardwork.
“Mak is a really good rebounder and we needed her to be tonight,” Stein said. “She mentioned on the bus that she knew she had to rebound because Abby and Gabby weren’t in there.”
Brockmeyer played only 24 minutes after sitting out the final 14 minutes of the first half when she drew her second foul, but still wound up with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the 28th double-double of her career.
Walker packed 17 points, six rebounds and five assists into her 30 minutes of work. She played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, but scored six points in the first 4:51 of the fourth to give SIU a 52-45 lead.
The Salukis held Drake scoreless over the final 3:17. Silvey converted a layup off Walker’s feed with 1:43 left for a 56-49 lead and Caitlin Link sank four of six free throws in the last 86 seconds to seal the outcome.
It was SIU’s first win at Drake since Jan. 1, 2016 and snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Bulldogs.
“I don’t know if it was our best half of the season, but it was our grittiest,” Stein said of the second half. We had to get a lot of stops and then get the lead. We learned a lot in the first half and then executed a lot better in the second half.”
Freshman Laniah Randle returned to action after missing the previous two games with COVID-19 and scored two points in 10 minutes. Her biggest contribution was on the defensive end, where she snagged five of the team’s 10 steals. … Maggie Bair was Drake’s only double-figure scorer with 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting. The other nine Bulldogs who played combined to make 10 of 45 attempts from the field. … SIU aims to sweep the road trip on Saturday at Northern Iowa in a 2 p.m. start.