Salukis Drop OT Thriller to Illinois State, 68-63

    Mercedes Griffin hit a 3-pointer as time expired in regulation to force overtime.

    Mercedes Griffin hit a 3-pointer as time expired in regulation to force overtime.
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    Feb. 16, 2014

    By John Lock

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    NORMAL, Ill. - The Southern Illinois women's basketball team showed resilience in fighting back from a 15-point deficit at Redbird Arena on Sunday afternoon, but Illinois State pulled out a 68-63 win over the Salukis.

    "Close but no cigar," head coach Cindy Stein said. "As much as we want wins every time we come out, we are really concentrating on work ethic and toughness. We had to remind them when we were 15 points down about toughness. I felt like our kids faced that challenge and forced the overtime. We just couldn't keep and sustain that level. We got worn out in the overtime."

    The Salukis (4-20, 2-11 MVC) found themselves in a 15-point hole with 7:30 to play, but Southern went on a furious 18-2 run. Illinois State looked like it would still pull out a win in regulation after Chloe Nelson, who ended up with 18 points, converted a 3-point play with 15 seconds remaining, but Mercedes Griffin hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.

    In the extra period, the Redbirds got two buckets in the first minute to get a four-point lead. Southern had a pair of chances to tie the game but came up empty on both trips.

    "I thought we did a good job of contesting their jump shots," Stein said. "But every time they got an open shot, they knocked it down."

    The teams came into the game as the lowest scoring teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, and both offenses struggled in the first half. Each team had 11 turnovers and a four-minute scoring draught in the first half. Southern held the Redbirds to 30 percent shooting in the first half.

    Southern Illinois came out in the second half strong. SIU started the half on a 6-0 run and held the Redbirds without a point for the first four minutes of the half. But the Redbirds responded with an extended 19-3 run to seemingly put the game away. Southern, who had lost five-straight games by 18 or more points, looked like it would fade down the stretch before the furious rally to force overtime.

    Dyana Pierre had 19 points and 11 rebounds to collect her MVC-leading ninth double-double of the season. Griffin, who came into the game with no 3-pointers this year and only two for her career, hit two 3-pointers on her way to a career-high 17 points.

    Azia Washington came close to her second double-double this year, putting in nine points and grabbing 13 rebounds--including 10 rebounds in the second half and overtime. Hannah Shores grabbed three steals and took a charge, prompting Stein to say this may have been the best game Shores had played. Jordyn Courier hit three 3-pointers and finished with nine points.

    The Salukis only have one Valley game next weekend, when they travel to Evansville to take on the Purple Aces on Sunday, Feb. 23.