MOLINE — SIU's women's basketball team squeaked out a three-point win at Wichita State Feb. 12, a far cry from the 23-point blowout in Carbondale in their first meeting.
When the Salukis (16-13) and Shockers (14-15) meet for the third time at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Friday, at least two things are certain. SIU will still have to be patient, and Wichita State plans on being physical.
"I would go out as far as saying they're easily one of the top-two most physical teams in our league," said SIU guard Rishonda Napier said, one of two first team all-conference picks along with guard/forward Kylie Giebelhausen. "It's postseason, so that'll probably be even amped up a bit, so we've got to be poised, and be smart, and fundamental, and see if we can use their physicality against them and continue to do what we do well."
SIU had 19 assists to eight turnovers in the first meeting with Wichita State in Carbondale and 15 to 20 in the second. The Shockers are led by a three-headed frontcourt led by junior forward Rangie Bessard, the team's leading scorer (16.4 points per game) and rebounder (7.2 per game). Junior forward Angiee Tompkins (nine points, 4.3 rebounds per game), a junior college All-American at South Georgia Tech Community College, had 19 points and eight rebounds in the Shockers' 105-89 loss at No. 19 Drake to end the regular season.
Kayla Williams, a 6-2 freshman forward, has started 14 of 27 games this season.
Wichita State's 89 points at Drake were a season-high. The Shockers allowed the Bulldogs, who became the first team in league history to go 18-0 in Valley play, to sink 19 of 31 3-pointers. Wichita State lost by 25 at Northern Iowa, the second seed at this weekend's tournament at the iWireless Center, but held four of its last six opponents under 40 percent shooting.
"They play really hard. They're a really good defensive team," SIU coach Cindy Stein said. "They hit the glass really hard, and they have the ability to score in numerous ways, so, I thought they played us extremely well the last time we played 'em."
SIU beat Loyola last year to reach the tournament semifinals for the first time since 1997, and hopes to get one game farther with seniors Napier, Kim Nebo and Carlie Corrigan.
"Last year we made it to the semifinals and lost against UNI. It wasn't our best game," Giebelhausen said. "So, this year we want to make it to the final and then go from there. For me, personally, that's my goal. I know the coaches and some of the other players want to win the thing, and that's fine, but you gotta get there first in order to do that."
The winner of Friday's game meets either top-seeded Drake or No. 9 seed Illinois State at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.