CARBONDALE — With apologies to Charles Dickens, the SIU women’s basketball squad was the best of teams and the worst of teams Wednesday.
After a hot start, SIU opened with a 16-10 lead, the Salukis trailed Memphis 43-22 at halftime. Then, SIU outscored the Tigers 44-27 in the second half, ultimately losing 70-66. Unfortunately for SIU, the good Salukis were unable to dig out of the hole the bad Salukis created.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein. “I love how hard we played in the second half to come back. We did some great things in the second half. I told the team we just have to keep getting better. We can’t worry about a win or a loss right now, we just have to concentrate on getting better.”
The Salukis started the game on a roll. Awa Keita’s driving layup at the 5:21 mark of the first half gave SIU a 16-10 lead. SIU connected on six of its first seven shots. However, the wheels came off quickly.
It would be nearly seven minutes before the Salukis would score again. But, by the time Nicole Martin drained a 15-foot jumper SIU found itself trailing 25-18.
“We got sped up,” said junior guard Makenzie Silvey. “We started making turnovers, forcing passes we didn’t have to. They really sped us up and made us take not our best shots.”
“I talk about this all the time,” Stein said. “They’ll start going back to bad habits we had last year. It’s taken us a while to correct the ship because they are a little stubborn. When we’re able to get the ship corrected, we do a really, really good job. I think they are starting to see that a little better. They have to recognize that a little sooner. That’s what they have to learn from.”
At intermission, the Salukis appeared to be buried. The numbers certainly indicated the team should be trailing by 21. SIU committed a dozen turnovers in the first half. The Salukis were outscored 33-6 in the final 15 minutes of the half. The team had just one offensive rebound and one 3-pointer in the first half.
“Honestly, we just got so undisciplined,” Stein said. “Our transition, we want to push the ball up the floor, but we were taking one-on-four shots instead of making the easy pass and getting into a flow. We were just trying to drive the ball down and score over 6-foot-4. It just wasn’t smart play. It wasn’t high percentage shots.
“We had to slow it down a little more in the first half just to get our bearings. Then I think you saw in the second half we made the good decisions in transition and scored.”
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It was a revitalized team that took the floor in the second half.
In the first 40 seconds of the third quarter Abby Brockmeyer scored on an offensive rebound and Silvey hit a trey. The first five minutes of the second half saw the Salukis knock 11 points off the deficit.
“Most of the time when you get blown out in the first it just continues in the second,” Brockmeyer said. “I thought we did a really great job of fighting back, but when you go down 20 in the first half it’s really hard to come back from that.”
SIU trailed just 51-44 entering the fourth quarter and quickly cut the deficit to five on Brittney Patrick’s short baseline jumper. Memphis rebuilt the lead to 10 before Silvey heated up from the arc. Her third straight trey pulled SIU to within 62-57 with 4:05 remaining.
“We just made some adjustments in the locker room,” Silvey said. “We really got them off the offensive glass. That was kind of killing us in the first half. They didn’t get many second chance points. And, we had a lot of shots that usually fall but didn’t in the first half. Those started to go down in the second half. That obviously helps a lot.”
Then with just under a minute to play, Silvey poked the ball loose on the defensive end and sailed in for a layup, cutting the deficit to 66-63. However, Dulcy Mendjiadeu Fankam’s putback bucket with 35 ticks left put the game out of reach.
“It just shows the capability of our team,” Brockmeyer said. “If we played that way the first half we’d beat them by 20. But, that’s what we’re capable of doing. You come out slow in the first half, it’s tough to bounce back. If we get it all together it’s going to be good.”
The game was played in front of a raucous crowd of 3,397, mostly school children on Field Trip Day.
Silvey finished with 28 points, 26 in the second half, to lead SIU. Brockmeyer put together a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jamirah Shutes led Memphis with 23.
SIU falls to 2-2 while Memphis is 2-3.