HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Southern Illinois University women's basketball team held on for a 64-59 win over Marshall University on Saturday, at Cam Henderson Center.
The Salukis improved to 4-3 with the win, their first victory over Marshall (2-5) since 1993 and their first win over a Conference USA opponent since 1996. Southern did so with a stifling defense that forced a season-high 21 turnovers and won the rebounding battle, 40-30.
"(Today's game) came down to defense and rebounding and that's something I talk about everyday with our team," said SIU coach Cindy Stein. "When we become a good defensive rebounding team we are going to start to win a lot more games. For us to have to step up we had to play some really good defense and our kids came through."
After suffering back-to-back four-point losses in which it let second half leads slip away, SIU answered adversity's call at Marshall, as The Salukis point guards, Brittney Patrick and Kristen Nelson, helped the SIU seize control down the stretch.
"One of our keys was to find a way to win," Stein said. "We have been in close games each game this season, and when we have lost, the other team took control. And a lot of it was from a leadership standpoint, someone (on the opposing team) rallied the troops where we did not. I think Brittney Patrick did an absolutely fantastic job of getting our team fired up and she was very focused. Kristen Nelson did the same thing."
Nicole Martin led the way with her second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, which marked the second-straight game in which she has snagged 10-plus boards. Kylie Giebelhausen added 15 points and a career-high seven steals, while Rachel Pudlowski, making her first career start, chipped in 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
The Salukis took their largest lead of the game, 46-32, on a layup by Pudlowski with 5:52 to play in the third quarter. The Thundering Herd cut SIU's lead to 10, 55-44 at the end of three, and a 9-0 spurt to open the fourth quarter cut the Salukis lead to just one, 54-53 with 7:16 to play.
SIU turned up the defensive pressure and didn't allow a Marshall field goal for the next 5:10 of the fourth quarter. Makenzie Silvey curled off a screen and nailed a jumper to extend SIU's lead to five with 2:50 to play, but the Thundering Herd would not go away quietly. Marshall answered with six-straight points to take their first lead since the opening quarter, 60-59 with 51 seconds to play. In need of a basket, Silvey took the ball at the top of the key and cut to the lane. Three Thundering Herd defenders closed on her and she dished off to Nicole Martin down low, who put in the wide-open layup to give SIU the lead back for good at 60-59.
Giebelhausen picked off the ensuing Marshall pass and Nelson and Martin each made a pair of free throws to seal the win.
The Salukis return home on Thursday, when they host Martin Methodist College. Tip-off for SIU's annual Field Trip Day is set for noon.