Freshman Azia Washington had a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds against Central Methodist.
Nov. 2, 2012
By Bill Ford
CARBONDALE, Ill.-- The Southern Illinois women's basketball team overcame early game jitters for a dominating 82-57 win over Central Methodist in exhibition play Friday night at SIU Arena.
The Salukis went into halftime up just nine points on the NAIA-member Eagles at 36-27 after struggling to shoot the ball early on. Southern shot 33.3 percent (13-for-39) in the opening frame.
"In the first half it was lots of nerves, lots of easy missed shots," said SIU head coach Missy Tiber.
Southern settled in after halftime, shooting 41.0 percent in the second half (16-for-39) and running away with the lopsided win. Five Saluki players scored in double figures led by freshmen Rishonda Napier and Azia Washington with 20 and 17 points respectively.
Napier and Washington shined in their Saluki debuts. In addition to leading the team in scoring, Napier also dished out nine assists with just three turnovers and pulled down seven rebounds. She also led the team with four 3-pointers on eight attempts.
"I think she is going to be a special player," Tiber said. "She has a good basketball mind and she is a good student too. She's very smart. I think she is going to have a great career here with us."
Washington led all rebounders with 14 for a double-double and went 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Tiber said the freshman post player is a great compliment to sophomore center Alexus Patterson, who also had a strong night with 11 points, 8 rebounds and a team-high five steals.
"Azia plays unbelievably hard. She wears her heart on her sleeve and she's very passionate. Once she starts to get more of a basketball mind, her ceiling is high," Tiber said.
"I have to find a way to get Alexus and Azia to exist in the game at the same time. They are too good to split minutes at the five spot. If we can play them together, our chances to get rebounds are so great and that will open up our guards to get open shots."
SIU had a solid night on the boards, out-rebounding the Eagles 82-57. The Salukis also took care of the ball well, posting 17 assists to just 14 turnovers. Meanwhile, Southern held CMU to just 10 assists with 17 turnovers.
SIU trailed briefly four minutes into the game, but quickly regained the lead and held it the rest of the night. Tiber said it was encouraging that her team was able to sustain its momentum throughout the night despite playing several different lineup combinations.
"I like the life that is in my team. They are very engaged. They play hard," Tiber said. "They are a true team and you can feel that. I think that is going to be a key for our success this year."
One area Tiber identified a need for improvement is defense, despite holding CMU to 57 points on a 31.3 percent shooting clip (21-for-67).
"I think we are pretty talented, but we have a lot to learn," Tiber said. "We have to get a lot better defensively in these next 10 days before our first game against Central Arkansas."
The Salukis have one more exhibition tune-up Tuesday at SIU Arena against Missouri-St. Louis before beginning the regular season November 13 at home against Central Arkansas.