Dyana Pierre recorded her eighth double-double this season with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
Jan. 26, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois women's basketball team got a much-needed 66-57 win over Evansville on Sunday afternoon at SIU Arena. Southern (4-14, 2-5 MVC) outhustled the Purple Aces, getting 26 offensive rebounds and forcing 22 turnovers. SIU's defense held Evansville to only two field goals from the eight-minute mark until the game was decided.
"I don't think we played well, but we played hard. That's probably what I'm most pleased with," head coach Cindy Stein said afterwards. "We fought the entire game to come up with the loose ball or the rebound or the stop or the free throw."
Dyana Pierre came into the game without a double-double in four-straight games--her longest stretch of the season without a double-double--and she responded with a monster game, pouring in 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Pierre was immediately trapped upon catching the ball throughout the game. In the first half, the traps held her to 3-of-11 shooting. In the second half, she scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
While it was Pierre's offense that carried Southern through the second half, it was the team defense and rebounding that gave the Salukis the opportunity to overcome their five-point halftime deficit. SIU hauled in an incredible 26 offensive rebounds; Evansville ended with only 32 total rebounds. The Salukis forced a season-best 22 turnovers. The combination of offensive rebounds and forced turnovers resulted in 22 more field goal attempts for Southern.
Southern Illinois, usually the team that is trying to break a press, employed a full-court trapping press in the second half, a move which energized the Salukis and wore on the Aces. The Salukis pressure and intensity came at the perfect time in the second half; a crucial 12-3 run in the final minutes turned a three-point deficit into a six-point lead.
Evansville's freshman star Sara Dickey came in as the MVC's leading scorer and showcased her talent, scoring a game-high 30 points to keep Evansville in front for most of the game. She had 28 points with eight minutes remaining, but Griffin and the rest of the Salukis held her to only one field goal down the stretch.
"I'm worried that she is in our league for another three years," Stein said. "I wish she would graduate very soon, but I think a lot of (stopping Dickey down the stretch) was Mercedes Griffin. Mercedes did a great job of staying with her and denying her the ball. We knew they were going to try to get her the ball in the last three minutes of the game, but Mercedes continually worked hard to make that a struggle for (Dickey)."
In addition to guarding Dickey down the stretch, Griffin stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, three assists, two blocks and five steals. Her final steal of the game led to a runout layup that sealed Southern's second conference win this year, already surpassing last year's regular season total.
As has become customary this season in MVC play, all nine available players played, and eight played double-figure minutes. Jordyn Courier played great down the stretch, ending up with nine points and three assists--all in the second half. Guard Hannah Shores hauled in nine rebounds and added seven points and three assists. Azia Washington just missed a double-double, recording nine points and eight boards.
"This is a team that hasn't stopped believing that we can get better and get victories," Stein said. "That's a credit to them. I would love to say that there is some magic potion we've given them, but there's not. We haven't changed the way we've coached them. They have kept a great attitude and continued to work hard, so the credit goes to them for staying in it."