Feb. 19, 2009
By Shalae Patrick
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Kaci Bailey's 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime was waved off by officials, ending Southern Illinois' (7-16, 3-11) quest to knock off league-leading Illinois State (21-4, 12-1) Thursday afternoon.
The Salukis fell in regulation, 71-68, on Field Trip Day at SIU Arena.
"We should play at noon more often," Saluki head coach Dana Eikenberg said. "I'm really proud of our team. I thought we did just a terrific job. Our seniors, (Bailey and Erica Smith) in particular, at the start of the game, really gave us good momentum, great balance, great poise. They did some really nice things."
In an physical contest that changed hands 14 times, no team was able to take control for very long before the other fought back for possession of the lead.
The Redbirds struck first on a jumper by Kristi Cirone less than 20 seconds into the contest.
The game was tied at 12-all with just under 13 minutes to play in the first half before ILS went on an 8-0 run, up 20-12, the largest lead of the contest.
SIU used back-to-back Katrina Swingler jumpers, 3-pointers from Smith and Christine Presswood and back-to-back Adrianne Griffith jumpers to pull ahead 26-24 with under five minutes to play in the half.
The Salukis held the lead the remainder of the period, aided by two of Smith's career-best four threes, taking a 36-32 lead into the locker room at the break.
The Redbirds turned it on, up two, 38-36, after three straight buckets to start the second half before Southern answered with a Bailey three at 16:18.
A Jasmine Gibson three at 6:47 put the Salukis ahead 61-60, but Illinois State's Nicolle Lewis, who finished with a game-high 25 points, scored five straight to put her team back up four.
Gibson continued her offensive work, scoring the next six points for her team to tie the game, 67-67, with one minute remaining. The senior finished with 11 points and a team-high four assists, one of four Salukis in double-figures.
The only points scored in the final minute of the game were on free throws, ILS 4-of-6 from the charity stripe and SIU 1-of-2.
Lewis drained two with nine seconds left to play, a perfect 9-of-9 from the line on the day, to put her team up by three before Bailey's shot at the buzzer.
Southern turned the ball over just seven times in the game, a season-low.
For the second-straight game and just the third time this season, the Saluki bench out-scored the opponent's bench, 18-0, led by 12 from Swingler to go with five rebounds.
Along with Gibson's 11, Smith finished with a team-high 14 points, five boards and Griffith added 12 points, four rebounds.
Bailey finished with nine points, 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. She combined with Smith for seven of a season-high 10 3-pointers for Southern.
"Our offensive flow and defense, we just really out-grinded them for a good 27 minutes," Eikenberg said. "Kristi Cirone, she's the best, and it is really difficult to shut her down. I thought Erica did a terrific job guarding her. I thought our post, specifically Adrianne Griffith, did a terrific job battling."
Lewis added a game-high 12 boards to go with her 25 points to lead ILS, while the two-time defending MVC Player of the Year Cirone finished with 20 points. Maggie Crick also pitched in 14 points for the Redbirds.
"It was a great game and it will sting, but we'll get it together tomorrow and come back for Saturday," Eikenberg added. "It was a great crowd, we appreciate our marketing department for the Field Trip Day."
The Salukis return to action Saturday for the Third Annual "Pink Out" against Indiana State for a 2:05 p.m. tip-off.