Salukis Fall in a Heartbreaker at Drake

    Mercedes Griffin had a career-high 16 points to lead the Salukis to go along with seven assists, six rebounds and a steal.

    Mercedes Griffin had a career-high 16 points to lead the Salukis to go along with seven assists, six rebounds and a steal.
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    Jan. 10, 2014

    By John Lock

    Final Stats | Final Stats (PDF)Get Acrobat Reader | Coach Stein Interview

    DES MOINES, Iowa - The Southern Illinois women's basketball program lost a heartbreaker at Drake on Friday night, falling 74-72 at the Knapp Center. Drake star Kyndal Clark got an offensive rebound and put it back with 1.5 seconds remaining to get the win for the Bulldogs.

    "It was a hard-fought game," head coach Cindy Stein said. "We had four kids in double-figures. We scored 72 points and we lose. We'll get better. I think we got better today. We're just going to keep competing."

    The Salukis (3-11, 1-2 MVC) led for the majority of the game and built up an eight-point halftime lead despite the top-two scoring Salukis, Dyana Pierre and Azia Washington, each playing seven minutes or fewer due to foul trouble. Pierre played only three minutes in the first half.

    "I think all our kids did a great job, especially with Azia and Dyana on the bench," Stein said. "They all stepped up. They all did something special. As long as we can continue to have that kind of play, we'll do something special."

    Drake came into the game as the best 3-point shooting team in the conference, but SIU held the Bulldogs to 0-for-7 in the first half and 4-for-21 in the game. The Saluki D held Drake to just 30.3 percent shooting in the first half.

    "Our kids are playing hard. They're scrapping," head coach Cindy Stein said. "We did some things to keep them off balance. I think that helps, but defense is always going to be the name of the game in the Valley."

    After halftime, SIU pushed the lead to double-figures, just the second game in which SIU has held a double-figure lead. Leading by 12 with 14:18 to go in the game, the Salukis saw Drake run off a 21-4 run over the next six minutes to take a 60-55 lead. Just as it seemed the game was slipping, SIU seized the momentum with a 9-0 run. From there, the lead ping-ponged between teams until an Azia Washington free throw tied the game at 70 with a minute left.

    Mercedes Griffin stole the ball and sunk the breakaway layup to give SIU a two-point lead, but Drake scored the game's final four points, including Clark's putback with less than two seconds left. SIU turned it over as time expired, one of 21 Saluki turnovers on the night.

    The game was the most balanced of the season for the Salukis. All nine players played double-digit minutes, all nine players scored, and eight players grabbed at least one rebound. The team spread around 59 shots, with no player taking more than 10 attempts from the field.

    "I felt like kids were looking for their opportunities," Stein said. "Not everyone played great, but at the same time, they played hard. When we play that hard, we can compete with anyone in the Valley."

    Griffin posted a career-best 16 points, and Southern had four players reach double-figures for the second time this season. All nine SIU players scored in a balanced effort. Griffin added seven assists--another career high--six rebounds and a steal.

    Azia Washington added 12 points, all of which came in the second half, and Dyana Pierre added 10. Pierre and Washington battled early foul trouble in the first half but combined to score 18 points in the second half. Sidney Goins was also in double-figures, adding 12 points.

    Carlie Corrigan got her first career start and responded early. Corrigan made a quick 3-pointer and got five rebounds in the opening minutes. She finished with a career-best seven boards.

    UP NEXT: The Salukis head to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on Northern Iowa on Sunday afternoon. The game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. CST tip.