Nov. 23, 2007
By Shalae Patrick
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Southern Illinois women's basketball team knew the key to victory over Western Kentucky was to shut down the defending player of the year of the Sun Belt Conference, Crystal Kelly, on the first day of the George Washington Thanksgiving Classic Friday. The Lady Toppers' senior forward scored 27 points, adding 12 rebounds to help her team cruise past the Salukis, 88-73, Friday afternoon in the Smith Center.
The Lady Toppers scored first, four seconds after they won the tip-off on a layup by Dominique Duck. Duck then turned around to pick off a Saluki pass to score two more of her 20 points before 30 seconds had ticked off the game clock.
Western Kentucky started the game on a 20-7 run, leading by as many as 14 three different times during the first half, taking a 48-38 lead into the locker room at the break.
The beginning of the second half started much like the first as the Salukis were held scoreless the first three minutes of the period before SIU's Ellen Young hit a three with just over 17 minutes to play in the game.
"I thought we were lackadaisical to start both halves," Saluki head coach Dana Eikenberg said. "We gave up three turnovers right off the bat. We didn't follow the game plan we've been prepping for the last three days. When you don't follow the game plan and try to reinvent the wheel against a good team you're going to find yourself in a hole and we weren't ever really able to cut the deficit under ten."
The Lady Toppers held their largest lead of the game, 18 points, with just under eight minutes left The Salukis cut the lead to 14 on a Tanaeya Worden three with under three minutes left in regulation before WKU answered with two straight layups on two trips down the floor.
WKU shot over 55 percent from the floor, scoring 23 points off of SIU turnovers.
"Ellen Young did a terrific job off the bench tonight," Eikenberg said of the freshman. "She was our only spark and our only consistent effort."
The Salukis take on South Dakota State Saturday at 2 p.m. CST. The Jackrabbits are 4-1 on the season, falling to No. 15/17 George Washington Friday night.
"South Dakota State is a better team than Western Kentucky," Eikenberg said. "They're faster and they score out of transition about 90 percent of the time. We're in for a long afternoon tomorrow if the same team shows up."