Salukis win wild double-overtime thriller over Bradley, 100-96

    Sophomore Dyana Pierre shattered her previous career bests with 33 points and 18 rebounds.

    Sophomore Dyana Pierre shattered her previous career bests with 33 points and 18 rebounds.
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    Jan. 2, 2014

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    By Tyler Wooten

    CARBONDALE, Ill. -- In a wild game that involved nine lead changes and seven ties, the Saluki women's basketball team came out on top of a roller coaster double-overtime spectacle over Bradley, 100-96, on Thursday at the SIU Arena, to open the Missouri Valley Conference season.

    Southern (3-9, 1-0 MVC) accrued stellar career-high performances out of sophomores Dyana Pierre (33 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks, 14-of-22 shooting) and Azia Washington (27 points, 15 rebounds, 12-of-19 shooting), but the story of the day was the clutch bench performances of freshmen Carlie Corrigan and Kim Nebo in the second overtime.

    "They were ready for their moment," said SIU head coach Cindy Stein. "I talk about that all the time. Coming off the bench you have to be ready for your moment and they got it done."

    Corrigan and Nebo played a combined 17 minutes, most of which came after Washington fouled out in the first overtime and Pierre in the second. With 1:20 to play in the second overtime, Corrigan took control of the game. The freshman native of Plainfield, Ill., drove the lane and sank a layup while getting fouled to cut the Bradley (3-9, 0-1 MVC) lead to 96-94. She missed the free throw, which was rebounded by Nebo, who missed her layup, which was put back by Corrigan -- who was fouled again after tying the game.

    "I knew there was probably going to be a chance (of playing) since we had so few players and I knew there was probably a good chance in two overtimes with so many people with four fouls that I was gonna have to go in," Corrigan said.

    Corrigan missed the free throw, but Southern caught a break when Braves guard Michelle Young (32 points) was called for a charge with 48.5 seconds to play. On the ensuing Saluki possession, Corrigan once again took the shot, and SIU's Mercedes Griffin was able to haul in an offensive rebound, which led to a Saluki timeout with 21 seconds to play.

    Griffin got her number called to be the hero on the next possession, as she hit the game-winning layup with 14.4 seconds remaining to take a 98-96 lead. The Saluki defense came up with an equally-important stop on the final Braves possession of the game, which featured a missed layup by BU's Catie O'Leary (18 points, 12 rebounds) and a clutch rebound by Nebo -- who was promptly put on the free throw line, where she sank both to push SIU into triple digits for the first time since Mar. 5, 1984 (101, vs. Indiana State).

    A double-overtime affair seemed far-off in regulation as both teams built and traded large leads. SIU began the game on a 16-7 run fueled by Pierre, Washington and Sidney Goins (18 points, five assists, 6-of-14 three-point shooting). Southern eventually built a 49-33 lead at the half on the back of Washington, who posted a first half double-double (her first this season and second in her career).

    The second half, however, was a stark contrast. The Braves began on a 32-11 run through the first three media timeouts up to the 7:43 mark, built primarily on the efforts of Young. The MVC's third-leading scorer entering today, Young was held to only six points in the first half but went off for 18 in the second half.

    The Braves led by as many as nine over the final 7:43, but SIU clawed its way back into the game. The turning point was yet another three-pointer by Goins at the 3:03 mark, which led to a crucial sequence beginning at 1:53. Sophomore Hannah Shores (seven points, five assists) hit a jumper to cut the BU lead to 77-74, which was followed by a defensive stop, a Shores miss and a Pierre put-back to cut the lead to 77-76 at 1:36.

    Junior Ariel Haynes was fouled with 55 seconds to play and a chance to seal Saluki victory in regulation. Haynes hit the first to tie the game, but missed her potential game-winner, which eventually forced the game into overtime.

    SIU started the first overtime period off strong with a 6-2 run, but the Braves responded with a 6-0 run of their own to take the lead 85-83. A Pierre free throw cut the Bradley lead to one, and the ensuing BU possession was stymied yet again by the Saluki defense -- which, forced BU to run the shot clock down before forcing a shot.

    "When we had to step up and gut it out defensively, we did," Stein said. "We did the little things enough to take over the game, and I don't think our kids stopped believing."

    SIU was able to take the lead on a Pierre layup, but unfortunately put BU's Jenny Smith on the free throw line with 0.8 seconds to play, where she sank the second to force the game into double overtime.

    The game was Southern's first double overtime game since Feb. 23, 1983 (Missouri, L, 76-83), and SIU's 92 shot attempts breaks the previous school record of 91 set on Nov. 21, 1980, vs. SEMO.

    Both Pierre and Washington shattered their previous career-bests -- both of which were reset within the past 10 days. Pierre now has six double-doubles this season and 15 in her Saluki career.

    "Dyana is just ferocious, I think she's the best post player in the Valley," Stein said. "She can do so much, she has such a physical presence. She had people hanging all over her, and she kept scoring."

    Southern's victory is even more impressive due to its limited bench. At one point in the final overtime, SIU was down to five total players after Pierre, Shores and Washington had fouled out.

    "Coach keeps telling us (roster depth) isn't an excuse," Corrigan said. "That's not an excuse to play hard, that's not an excuse for not winning and I think we've gotten over that as a team."

    This is the first MVC opener SIU has won since Jan. 2, 2010 (vs. Evansville, 79-68), and Coach Stein and the Salukis see the conference season as a clean slate.

    "This is a new season for us right now," Stein said. "Who cares what we did pre-conference? It's already too late, we can't do anything about it. But we can start the Valley. Everyone starts 0-0."

    SIU hosts Loyola at home on Saturday, Jan. 4., with tipoff scheduled for 2:05 p.m. at the SIU Arena.