Salukis hand Evansville 83-74 OT upset in MVC opening round

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    Junior guard/forward Jordyn Courier
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    March 14, 2013

    Box Score |  Photo Gallery 

    By Bill Ford

    ST. CHARLES, Mo.-- The 10th-seeded Southern Illinois women's basketball team upset No. 7 seed Evansville 83-74 in a wild overtime affair Thursday night in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

    The Purple Aces came back from a 13-point second half deficit to take a four-point lead with two minutes to play in regulation, but the Salukis hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final minute, including a game-tying trey by Cartaesha Macklin with six seconds remaining.

    "I took the shot, I was completely confident we had them beat," Macklin said. "We were trying to win a basketball game, and that's what I had to do. The feeling was amazing."

    Southern (5-25, 1-17 MVC) outscored Evansville (9-21, 7-11 MVC) 15-6 in the overtime period to end a 16-game losing streak and post the program's first MVC Tournament win since 2008.

    "They made some runs at us, but we still kept our composure," said SIU interim head coach Adrianne Harlow, who picked up her first head coaching win. "When we were up by 13, then they took the lead, I told them we weren't going to lose this game. They listened and they finished."

    SIU jumped out to a 9-4 lead early in the game, but fell in some foul trouble as Macklin and Jordyn Courier both had two fouls in the first eight minutes. The Purple Aces fought back with a 7-0 run as the Salukis went on a seven and-a-half minute scoring drought.

    The Salukis awoke with a 6-0 run of their own to go back up 15-12 with 8:14 left in the half. The two teams went on to trade the lead 6 more times over the ensuing five minutes before SIU ended the half on a 7-0 run to take a 29-22 lead into the break.

    The two teams traded baskets through the first 11 minutes of the second half with neither team making much headway. SIU led by as much as 10, but never led Evansville closer than six. The Salukis finally broke open their biggest lead of the night at 55-42 when Macklin found Courier in transition for her fourth 3-pointer of the second half.

    The Aces slowly chipped away at the Saluki lead, using a 21-7 run to go up 66-62 with 2:09 to play. Courier shook loose for a second-chance 3-pointer to cut the lead to one, but Evansville's Taylor Ware hit a jumper on the other end to put the Aces up 68-65 with 22 seconds left.

    The Salukis worked the ball around the perimeter on their final possession of regulation before Macklin pulled up for the game-tying 3-pointer with six seconds left.

    SIU guard Mercedes Griffin tipped the ball out of bounds as Evansville brought the ball up the court, giving the Aces the ball out of bounds on their half of the court with 0.9 seconds left. Evansville found Mallory Ladd open on the baseline, but Ladd missed the jumper as time expired.

    SIU opened overtime on a 7-2 run and never looked back. The Salukis came up with a few big steals to quash any Evansville momentum in the extra period, and Southern hit just enough free throws to put the game on ice.

    "Those pivotal moments, we pretty much got every one of them. It comes down to making big plays and making big shots," Harlow said. "We made some key threes, we got some key steals, we got some key defensive stops. It takes all of that."

    Macklin finished with a game-high 32 points, which tied the eighth most in tournament history and marked the most any player has scored in the tournament's six-year stay in St. Charles. Courier hit five second-half 3-pointers and scored 17 points while Rishonda Napier scored 13 points and Dyana Pierre finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.

    "It means so much to us," Courier said of the win. "We've worked so hard all season. With all the ups and downs that we've had, we needed this. Our team was not about to let up tonight. We all came through and did what we needed to do."

    Samantha Heck led Evansville with 29 points and 16 rebounds while Ware added 10 points and Ladd chipped in 10 points.

    The Salukis advance to face No. 2 seed Creighton at 6:05 p.m. in Friday night's quarterfinal.

    "We're going to enjoy this win a little bit more, but we are going to get down and ready and focused," Courier said. "We had a great game tonight, but we can still bring more."