Oct. 25, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois beat Division II Maryville, 67-60, on Friday night in an exhibition game that marked the head coaching debut of Cindy Stein.
With 282 career wins to her credit in 16 seasons as a college coach, Stein brings a proven formula for success. Her teams play strong defense, pick their shots wisely on offense, and play the game with passion.
You could see those characteristics beginning to emerge tonight from a Saluki team that stumbled through a 5-26 season a year ago.
"Everything we've thrown at them is brand-new to their brains," Stein said. "They're on an overload. As soon as they get to a point where it's becoming natural, I think we have a really good shot of doing something significant."
To the chagrin of their head coach, the Salukis started the game by unleashing six 3-point shots in their first nine field goal attempts.
"These guys have been nervous for two days about this game," Stein explained. "(Six 3-pointers) -- are you serious? No -- we want a lay up. But that was due to nerves, and you work through that."
Neither team led by more than five points throughout the first half, and Southern pulled out to a 34-31 halftime lead when Mercedes Griffin hit a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer. Forward Dyana Pierre scored all of her team-high 10 points in the first half and also finished the night with 12 rebounds.
"We want to feed Dyana the ball more," Stein said. "I think she's going to be a force. She had a quiet second half, but they were double-teaming her."
The Salukis created some breathing room with a 12-3 run that turned a tie game into a 51-42 lead with 11:44 remaining in the game. Rishonda Napier scored six of her 10 points during the run.
Maryville, which won 19 games last season, trimmed the deficit to 60-54 with less than five minutes to play. Stein then used a timeout to give her team a pep talk.
"They came back to the bench hanging their heads down, and we were ahead," she said. "Their confidence is low. I'm not sure they thought they could win. They questioned it. We had to pump a little adrenaline into them and make them understand they're not losing this game."
A 3-pointer by Cartaesha Macklin extended the lead to nine points, 63-54, with 4:03 to go, and SIU's defense did not allow another field goal until JoAnn Thompson hit a jumper with one second left.
"I'm very defensive-oriented, and to see that happen, I was very pleased," Stein said. "When I first got here, with our defense, we were so far away from our (opposing) player. So we've had to push them to get up within an arm's length."
All 12 players who played for SIU scored at least one point, as Stein spread the minutes generously.
"We needed to play somebody else and get our feet wet," Stein said. "Now we have to be better students of the game, watch more video and get them to understand situations."
The Salukis play their second exhibition game next Saturday versus Lindenwood at 2:05 p.m.