Short-handed Salukis fall to UT Martin, 85-55

    Azia Washington scored a career-high 21 points.

    Azia Washington scored a career-high 21 points.
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    Dec. 23, 2013

    By Tom Weber

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    CARBONDALE, Ill. - Ball-handling was in short supply during the women's basketball game at SIU Arena on Monday afternoon. Southern Illinois committed 36 turnovers -- three shy of the school record -- in an 85-55 loss to UT-Martin.

    The short-handed Salukis (2-8) had trouble simply advancing the ball past half court against fierce full-court pressure by the Skyhawks (7-5). During one sequence four minutes into the game, four of five possessions resulted in back-court turnovers.

    "They scored 48 points off turnovers," lamented SIU head coach Cindy Stein. "A lot of it is lack of confidence. We have to continue to build this team up and put them in positions to succeed. That's my job as a coach, and some days are tougher than others."

    Although she didn't make excuses, it must be noted that Southern was without the services of three key players, and starting point guard Hannah Shores played despite being under the weather with flu-like symptoms. Both leading scorer Cartaesha Macklin and center Alexus Patterson are out for the rest of the season, Stein said. Also out for an extended timeframe is point guard Rishonda Napier.

    Shores started the game for SIU, but she was clearly not at full strength. The sophomore walk-on from Centralia committed seven turnovers in just 18 minutes.

    "She just didn't have a lot of energy today," Stein said. "She really tried, but we didn't give her a lot of help at times. She was struggling just to stay on the bench and not run off the court."

    UT Martin jumped out to a 17-2 advantage and never looked back. A withering press caused 11 turnovers in the first five minutes of the game. By halftime, the Salukis trailed by 20 points, had turned the ball over 23 times, and attempted just 14 shots.

    When they were able to beat the pressure, open shots were plentiful for the Salukis. They were above 50 percent shooting until the final minute of the game and also made 16-of-18 from the free throw line. Forward Azia Washington led SIU with a career-high 21 points.

    "We did have some good individual segments, but as a team, we just have to be able to fight through those rough patches and stay together," Stein said.

    With his team leading by 30 points, Skyhawks head coach Kevin McMillan withdrew the press six minutes into the second half, and the Salukis committed only five turnovers in the final 14 minutes of the contest.

    "I thought we got better in the second half," Stein said. "We're just trying to teach our kids how to not hang their heads and compete. They get down on themselves too quickly and that snowballs when someone's pressing, especially."

    Four players scored in double figures for UT Martin, led by by Ashia Jones' 17 points.

    SIU will be off until next Monday when they host Morehead State at 6 p.m.