UNI Runs Away From Salukis, 87-53

    Azia Washington scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half.

    Azia Washington scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half.
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    Jan. 12, 2014

    By John Lock

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    CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The Southern Illinois women's basketball team fell to Northern Iowa on Sunday afternoon, 87-53, at the McLeod Center. Azia Washington provided the only offense for the Salukis, and the Panthers piled up 38 points in the paint and eight 3-pointers to blow it open.

    "UNI is too tough of a team for us to come in and not execute," head coach Cindy Stein said. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we miss a couple shots, and we didn't hit the boards like we needed to. Then, Northern Iowa recognized mismatches and had great reads off whatever we tried to do defensively. We have to get better."

    Two days after playing what Stein called the most balanced effort of the season, Southern (3-12, 1-3 MVC) only got offensive production from Azia Washington in the first half. Washington had 15 of SIU's 23 first-half points and 15 of its 32 field goal attempts. No other SIU player scored more than two points in the first half.

    "Azia Washington really came on strong," Stein said. "She really tried to keep us in the game. She did everything she could to keep fighting; we just need a lot more kids doing that alongside her."

    Dyana Pierre got into quick foul trouble for the second game in a row. After playing only three minutes in the first half on Friday against Drake, Pierre again played only three minutes in the first half against UNI. After Pierre checked out of the game, UNI piled up 18 of their 20 first-half points in the paint.

    The Salukis fell flat in the second MVC game of the weekend for the second-straight weekend. Last weekend, Southern couldn't keep up with Loyola two days after a double-overtime win over Bradley. This weekend, UNI ran away with the game two days after the Salukis dropped a last-second loss to Drake two days before.

    "We fight things mentally more than physically," Stein said. "We get down on ourselves too easily. We still don't have the confidence we need."

    Northern Iowa kept the momentum going in the second half, starting the half on a 6-0 run over the first three and a half minutes. The Panthers extended the run to 23-10 before it emptied its bench with about 10 minutes to play. Kim Nebo played well in the second half, piling up a career-best nine points, all of which came in the second half.

    The Saluki defense, which came into the game ranked third in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.408) allowed the Panthers to shoot above 50 percent from the field for most of the game. SIU did guard the 3-point line well for the second-straight game, forcing UNI to take 29 attempts from deep to make eight 3-pointers (28 percent).

    Mercedes Griffin, who came into the game tied for fourth in MVC games in assists, put up four assists and five rebounds to go along with four points. All nine players on the roster scored and played double-figure minutes for the second game in a row.

    UP NEXT: The Salukis host Illinois State and Indiana State next weekend. Illinois State will come in Friday night 2-11 overall and 1-2 in conference play. Indiana State, the preseason No. 2 team in the Valley, will head into next weekend 8-6 overall and an undefeated 3-0 in MVC play.