Jan. 5, 2012
By Bill Ford
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois women's basketball team couldn't quell a late Bradley surge as the Braves topped the Salukis 72-59 Thursday night at SIU Arena.
Southern (3-10, 0-3 MVC) only trailed 56-50 with just under eight minutes to play before Bradley (10-5, 1-2 MVC) used a 13-0 run to push the margin to 19 with four minutes remaining. The Salukis hit some late free throws, but only cut the final margin to 13 points.
"We're getting there. It's a process and we're just not there yet," said SIU head coach Missy Tiber. "I see spurts of very good things and I see a lack of maturity and disciplined play that costs us. Free throws are killing us and then just being smart and not making smart decisions on both sides of the court is really hurting us right now."
Southern's offense struggled early on as the Braves built a 9-0 lead before Saluki guard Antishia Wright shook loose for a layup to pick up SIU's first points at the 14:02 mark. The Saluki offense came alive, scoring 10 points over the next four minutes, but Bradley didn't miss a step either.
The Braves matched Southern shot-for-shot before finally taking their biggest lead of the half at 21-10 with 8:09 to play. The Salukis drew within five points at the 2:17 mark before the Braves ended the half on a 7-2 run to take a 35-25 lead into the locker room.
Bradley's frontcourt gave the Salukis fits early as center Leah Kassing scored 12 of her team-high 18 points in the opening frame and forward Mackenzie Westcott yanked down eight of her game-high 10 boards in the first half.
"There were two seniors in the post on the other team and our kids were well prepared to know how well they'll have to work to guard those two kids," Tiber said. "They had 28 points and 18 rebounds total. We're young and very inexperienced in the post, but we could be better guarding against that."
SIU chipped away at the Bradley leave to open the second half, pulling within four points just over three minutes into the half. The Braves pushed the margin back to nine points midway through the half, but the Salukis rallied back with a layup and a pair of free throws by freshman guard Cartaesha Macklin to pull within 47-52 with 9:25 to play.
After Bradley knocked down four straight free throws to push the lead back to nine, Teri Oliver hit a trey to cut it back to six points and the Salukis forced a Braves turnover. Looking to cut further into the Bradley advantage, Southern couldn't convert on the offensive end. The Braves took advantage, making their late game run to put the game out of reach.
The loss marked Southern's third consecutive game with a free throw percentage in the 50s as the Salukis went 12-for-22 from the charity stripe for a 54.5 percent clip. SIU also struggled to a 35.0 percentage from the field (21-for-60). Conversely, the Braves shots 82.6 percent from the line (19-for-23) and 44.6 percent from the field (25-for-56).
Macklin led all scorers with 19 points while Oliver chipped in 12 and Jordyn Courier added eight. CiCi Shannon led the Saluki rebounding effort with seven boards while Oliver and Alexus Patterson each had five.
Still looking for their first Missouri Valley Conference win in two seasons, the Salukis host Northern Iowa Saturday at SIU Arena.