Morehead State edges SIU, 59-50

    Sophomore center Dyana Pierre set a new career-high with 21 points.

    Sophomore center Dyana Pierre set a new career-high with 21 points.
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    Dec. 30, 2013

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    By Tyler Wooten

    CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Yet another career-high scoring total for Dyana Pierre wasn't enough for the Salukis to hang with Morehead State, as they fell to the Eagles, 59-50, in a tight game at the SIU Arena on Monday night.

    The game was a stark contrast to last Monday's 85-55 loss to UT Martin, as tonight's matchup with the Eagles (6-7) featured 11 lead changes, nine ties and only 14 SIU turnovers. The Salukis (2-9) held the lead six times and were never down more than six points until the final minute of the game as MSU pulled away.

    However, five of those Saluki lead swings came in the first half. Southern came out fighting in the second half with a three-pointer from the corner by Ariel Haynes (seven points, seven rebounds) to tie the game, followed immediately by a long ball by Sidney Goins (five points) to take the lead, 31-28, at the 18:16 mark.

    SIU held on for the opening minutes of the half, but the Eagles quickly regained the lead at 15:07 on a three-pointer by Shanice Parker (seven points) to make it 37-34, and Morehead State never relinquished the lead from there on out. The Salukis remained within striking distance the remainder of the game, but could do little to stop the clever cuts the Eagles made to the basket.

    "I thought we had the game in the first half," said sophomore Dyana Pierre. "Coach (Stein) emphasized us stopping the cuts, putting our hands high, and sometimes we sagged off on that and that got us in trouble."

    Pierre was able to keep Southern in the game with her 21-point performance -- her second game in four tries where she has broken her previous career-high -- but SIU couldn't get a consistent effort out of its other starters and its bench, the latter of which was outscored 26-6 by the Eagles.

    At the end of the first half, Pierre accounted for 14 of SIU's 25 points. But, Morehead State began to double-team the sophomore center and the defensive strategy proved successful as they held Pierre to seven in the second half. Pierre also chipped in on the glass, posting 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double this season and her 14th in her young Saluki career.

    SIU has now out-rebounded opponents in six of its 11 games this season after tonight's 45-38 victory on the glass over the Eagles. Southern recorded a 17-9 advantage on the offensive glass and a 12-2 advantage on second-chance points, but SIU couldn't convert those extra shots when it counted down the stretch. SIU shot 29 percent in the second half, which included an 0-for-6 drought over the final 4:34.

    "We started rushing things, and sometimes we get in panic mode, and that's where we have to have the confidence and the toughness to not think 'What if I miss?,' said SIU head coach Cindy Stein. "A lot of what we're trying to coach right now is the mentality that we have to have to close out games."

    "This was much better than the Tennessee-Martin game," Stein said. "I felt like we competed. There are some things we have to clean up. The last three minutes we played not to lose, and we gotta go after the win."

    Tonight's loss concludes SIU's non-conference schedule, as the Salukis will open their Missouri Valley Conference schedule at home on Jan. 2 with the Bradley Braves (3-8) at 2:05 p.m., followed by a visit from new MVC member Loyola (3-8) on Jan. 4 at 2:05 p.m.

    "We have a conference that is very good, but all of us start 0-0 on Thursday, and we're gonna do everything we can to get in the win column and win those home games," Stein said.