CARBONDALE -- It was scene that hasn’t been witnessed at the SIU Arena for a long time -- especially where women’s basketball is involved.
Dyana Pierre picked up teammate Rishonda Napier and carried her off the floor after the Salukis upset Drake 81-76. Napier scored 30 points as the Saluki women handed the Bulldogs their first conference loss of the year.
The victory was the twelfth of the year for the Salukis. SIU won just five games last year.
“When you’ve been as low as we’ve been and you feel this … it’s indescribable,” said Azia Washington. “Your heart is tingling, especially when you’re on the floor, you know you’ve got it. You just see the look on the other team’s faces and you look at your teammates and you know you can trust everybody on the court with whatever shot. I want this feeling forever.”
It was a remarkable game. The score was tied 10 times. The lead changed hands 17 times.
SIU took the lead for good when Napier hit a 3-pointer with just 2:17 to play.
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The Salukis didn’t miss a field goal attempt in the final 2:43.
“We love these types of games,” Napier said. “We’re all fierce competitors. We love getting out there and scrapping, fighting for each other. Playing these kinds of games, especially on our home court, as players these are the types of games we love most.”
No shot was bigger than Kylie Giebelhausen’s 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play. It was her only field goal of the night, and Drake had just narrowed SIU’s lead to 72-71.
“She’s dangerous,” Napier said. “She’s lethal. She’s poison. She’s not afraid or not scared of anybody, of anything or any moment. She lives for that kind of stuff. Kylie just finds a way to make a big shot when she needs it the most. That’s the ultimate testament to the type of player she is.”
The Salukis also got double-doubles out of Washington (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Pierre (17 points, 14 rebounds). Cartaesha Macklin added 11. Drake held Pierre to just two points and three rebounds in a 81-66 win over SIU at Des Moines earlier this year.
“I watched film over and over again,” Pierre said. “I just noticed how I was playing and not getting open. I changed it up today and it worked.”
Drake started the game like a house afire, hitting seven of its first nine threes. The Salukis held the Bulldogs to just three treys in the second half.
“I felt like we really tightened things up in the second half,” said coach Cindy Stein. “I felt like we read things better. We communicated better. All our mistakes in the first half were just not communicating and talking. When we did that in the second half, we were so much better.”
And, although this was Drake’s first MVC loss -- the Bulldogs are now 14-7, 9-1 in the Valley -- neither the players nor Stein labeled the game a statement win.
“We have too many games left to be a statement game,” Stein said. “I would hope we can control our home floor like this. I would just hope we can do that. It’s hard to say it’s a statement game yet because we have to see where all the pieces fall. We’ll know more Sunday. We have to take care of Northern Iowa.”
Lizzy Wendell scored 27 for Drake on 10-of-21 shooting.
Northern Iowa comes to the Arena for a 2:05 p.m. game Sunday. The Panthers are 11-9, 7-2 in Valley play.
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