CARBONDALE — SIU women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein usually isn’t one for understatement.
Yet, she may have missed the mark when she said SIU’s 39-36 loss to Illinois State Friday night set the game of basketball back 25 years. It was not an aesthetic success for either team.
The Salukis shot just 23.3 percent (14-of-60) while Illinois State was just marginally better 30.3 percent (10-of-33). Illinois State turned the ball over 28 times and SIU hit just 4-of-10 free throws.
“It’s that time of year when this kind of thing happens,” Stein said. “This team has not been practicing as hard as they need to be. I thought we played really good defense today. If we played that kind of defense in practice, we would shoot better against defense like that. That’s what we’re going to take out of this game.”
On the positive side, the Salukis had a dozen steals and forced Illinois State turnovers the entire game. However, they failed to cash in. SIU got just 12 points off those turnovers. That issue was apparent from the start. The Salukis created seven turnovers in the first three minutes, but had just three points on the board.
“The defense was there,” said senior forward Kylie Giebelhausen. “We just couldn’t convert off of it. We’re going to struggle if we don’t. We’re just going to have to pick it up and play together when we get down like that. We have to have people step up.
“We’d get the steal or get them to turn it over. We wouldn’t have the correct spacing. We’d overcrowd people instead of spreading the floor out. It allowed their defense to guard one person on three people. We didn’t make them guard all of us. We kind of beat ourselves.”
Although SIU created 17 first half turnovers, the Salukis found themselves trailing 16-14 at the half. Abby Brockmeyer gave SIU a 14-12 advantage on an offensive rebound with 2:24 left in the half, but SIU failed to score down the stretch.
“We battled, battled, battled, we finally get the lead and then again we take crazy shots,” Stein said. “We try to talk to them about shot selection and what’s a good shot.”
The Salukis regained the lead early in the fourth quarter when Kristen Nelson and Giebelhausen hit back-to-back treys. However, Giebelhausen and Martin spent long stretches of the second half on the bench with foul trouble. Martin was limited to 13 minutes and Giebelhausen 28.
Those fouls led to a 26-10 discrepancy, in Illinois State’s favor, at the free throw line.
“We were out of synch because we had some lineups out there we don’t normally have out there, so you’re asking some kids who don’t play a lot to come up with big numbers,” Stein said. “I’ll be honest, it was a real physical game. I’m shocked at that number. I want our kids fighting and scrapping. I don’t think they all deserved to be that way. We also forced 28 turnovers and didn’t get anything out of it.”
However, the Salukis seemed to struggle offensively regardless of who was on the floor. SIU scored in single digits in three of the four quarters.
“We knew we were struggling offensively,” said freshman guard Makenzie Silvey. “We were just trying to get something going. That’s not necessarily what you need when everyone is shooting poorly. When everyone is shooting poorly everyone needs to trust the offense is going to get you an easy shot. We weren’t doing that.”
Despite the offensive issues, SIU was in position to win. Illinois State took the lead for good when Simone Goods scored on the low post with 2:12 to play. The lead expanded to 38-36 when Goods made a free throw with 25 seconds left.
The Salukis squandered the chance to tie when Silvey’s jumper in traffic at the free throw line was off the mark and Illinois State rebounded.
“What a heck of a defensive game,” Stein said. “Honestly, you can’t shoot the way we did. I’m most disappointed at the free throw line. We make our free throws, we win the game. We were in a position to do that. We just didn’t get it done.”
Giebelhausen and Nelson led SIU with 8 points each. Hannah Green led Illinois State with 12.
The Salukis return to action Sunday, playing host to Bradley at 11:30 a.m.