CARBONDALE — Nicole Martin had to improvise.
SIU's first team all-conference senior forward was used to using her quickness to get around defenders or simply facing up and firing over them at 6-foot-1. Saint Louis' frontcourt of 6-2 Kendra Wilken, 6-2 Myriama Smith Traore and backup center Brooke Flowers, a 6-5 sophomore, forced the Salukis' second-leading scorer to find new ways to get to the basket.
"My coaches let me know what was open," Martin said after scoring 12 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter. "I like to fade away from contact and they told me to go at them. When I started to actually listen and do it, it worked out well."
Martin's two free throws to start the fourth quarter pushed SIU's lead to three points, and the Salukis went on to scratch out a 61-53 win over the Billikens to move to 4-2. Martin made 7 of 14 from the field and 4 of 5 at the free-throw line at the Banterra Center. She added seven rebounds in just over 31 minutes to help SIU beat Saint Louis for the first time since Nov. 14, 2008.
"She just started attackin' a bit more," SIU coach Cindy Stein said. "I think she was relying too much on her turnaround. She's been able to get away with turning around and just shooting over people. That wasn't going to work today so she had to find another way to score. She had to be a little more patient. They were crowding the post a lot, so her patience had to be really solid, and she had to make a good pass and work to get the ball back a second time, and get the pin and then up."
Makenzie Silvey, who came in averaging 21.6 points per game, finished with 14 on 6-of-14 shooting. Silvey made only one 3-pointer, but after the Billikens extended their defense, the 5-11 junior guard went inside. Her wraparound layup off a baseline drive with 1:35 to play extended SIU's lead to six. Billikens guard Ciaja Harbison, who had 12 points, pulled her team within four with a short jumper on the ensuing possession.
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Martin then nailed a short jumper over Flowers, a member of the Atlantic 10's All-Defensive Team last season.
"We are fortunate to have come out with the win today," Stein said. "Saint Louis is a good team. They are a very good defensive team and a great rebounding team. I'm really proud of our ladies. We did everything we could to figure out ways to score and we tried to limit them as much as we could to take tough shots."
SIU made 40% from the field and outscored Saint Louis 9-6 at the free-throw line. Opponents were averaging 48.3 points against the Billikens entering the game, but the Salukis cleared that off Martin's transition bucket with 5:32 to play. SIU was never able to put Saint Louis away, however, as neither team led by more than eight.
Wilken led Saint Louis with a game-high 19 points, sinking 9 of 10 from the field. Traore led the Billikens with seven rebounds in just over 33 minutes, but left the game after challenging a lob for Martin near the rim.
Traore, who was between Martin and the basket when SIU tried to lob it to her, fell hard underneath the rim. She was down for about 20 minutes while the Salukis' athletic training staff worked on her. She was fitted with a neck brace, strapped to a stretcher and wheeled out by paramedics with 4:47 to play and the Salukis leading 51-44. She was taken to Carbondale Memorial Hospital for tests.
A member of Saint Louis' staff told The Southern Traore could move all her limbs and was up and talking to doctors.