Women's Basketball Opens League Play Friday Against SMS

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    Jan. 2, 2003

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    Against SMS
    SIU trails, 25-22, in its overall series against the Lady Bears. SMS and SIU last met Feb. 10, 2002 in Carbondale, Ill., where the Lady Bears came out on the top end of a 69-57 decision. That win also marked SMS' 11th straight over the Salukis, who haven't beaten the Lady Bears since 1997.

    About the Salukis
    Southern Illinois returns home for the first time since Nov. 30. The Salukis, who were on the road for the entire month of December, head into Friday's conference opener at 4-4 on the year after placing second at the Long Beach Classic (12/20-21). While in California, the Dawgs defeated Mercer by a score of 62-59, before falling to Belmont in the championship game, 67-57. Senior guard Molly McDowell is the lone Saluki averaging double figures this season. McDowell, who posted double-digits in the scoring column on six occasions, averages 13.5 points per game. Shooting a sizzling .912 (31-of-34) from the free throw line as well, she needs just 28 points to reach the 1,000-point mark in her career. Juniors Tiffany Crutcher (8.8 ppg) and Katie Berwanger (8.3 ppg) follow scoring at least 8.3 points per contest.

    Head Coach Lori Opp (Western Illinois, '88)
    Lori Opp is 17-45 in her third year as head coach of the Southern Illinois University women's basketball program. Opp, a native of Havana, Ill., first joined the SIU women's coaching staff in 1998. Under then-head coach Julie Beck, Opp worked as an assistant coach for two seasons. Prior to that, she served as an assistant coach at Murray State, Eastern Illinois and Indiana State. Additionally, Opp is the sixth head coach in SIU's 42-year history.

    About the Lady Bears
    SMS, who ended a three-game losing skid last Sunday against Arkansas-Little Rock, enters Friday's league opener at 4-5 overall. SMS' 104-54 win over ALR also marked the Lady Bears' largest single-game point total of the 2002-03 campaign, and biggest margin of victory in school history.

    Scouting the Lady Bears
    First-Team All-MVC selection and 2001-02 MVC Freshman of the Year Jenni Lingor leads a potent starting five that sports four players averaging in double figures this season. Sophomore guard Lingor boasts a 15.2 points per game average, while junior Morgan Hohenberger (G, 11.0 ppg), freshman Sarah Klaasen (G, 10.4 ppg) and junior Meg Tierney (C, 10.0 ppg) follow with 10 or more points.

    Head Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson (Iowa, '90)
    Katie Abrahamson-Henderson is 4-5 in her first season at SMS and as a college head coach. She was named SMS women's basketball coach on May 14, 2002 after having served two years as associate women's head coach at Michigan State. She also served as an assistant coach at Duquesne (1990-92), Maine (1992-94) and Iowa State (1994-00).

    Past is the Past
    Since 1990, Southern Illinois has defeated SMS on just five occasions. Going a mere 5-25 in the last 12 years, the Salukis are currently on an 11-game losing streak against SMS, which dates back to 1998.

    Now it Counts
    Standing at 4-4 this season after recently completing the non-league part of its schedule, SIU enters its 2002-03 Missouri Valley Conference slate Friday against SMS. Under head coach Lori Opp, the Salukis are 0-2 in conference openers and haven't posted a league-opening win since 1999-00. That year, SIU started its MVC season with a 64-62 win over Indiana State (12/29).

    Poll Position
    SIU, who placed 10th in the MVC last season at 2-16, was picked last in this year's preseason poll, released Oct. 29 at the league's annual media day in St. Louis, Mo. Creighton and Drake were the overwhelming favorites, while SMS, Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Bradley, Indiana State, Evansville, Illinois State and SIU rounded out the pack. As of now, Creighton enters MVC play with a league-best 7-2 mark, while Indiana State (6-2) and Evansville (6-3), polish off the top three, respectively.

    Long Beach, Long Trip
    SIU returns home after visiting Long Beach, Calif., where it finished second among four teams at the 15th Annual Long Beach Classic (12/20-21). The Salukis' pair of games in California, marked the end of a five-game road trip which covered the entire month of December.

    Hooray for Heiden
    Junior Jodi Heiden, who has been the Dawgs' top threat off the bench this season, posted a double-double 14 points and 10 rebouds against Mercer (12/20). Scoring 10 of the Salukis' first 18 points of the game, Heiden shot 4-of-12 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line, while posting one assist and one block. Additionally, the double-double effort marked her second this season.

    Sharp Shooting
    Southern Illinois shot a season-best 52 percent (14-of-27) in the first half against Belmont (12/21). Junior Katie Berwanger, who scored 10 first half points alone, helped give the Dawgs to a 39-34 lead at the break. Unfortunately, the five-point advantage didn't stand, marking the third time this this season that the Salukis have lost a game after holding a halftime lead.

    Berwanger Shines
    Katie Berwanger scored 24 points in two games at the Long Beach Classic (12/20-21), where she was named to the all-tournament team. Berwanger shot 10-of-25 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line, while pulling down 18 rebounds and gathering seven steals. In addition, her 16-point, 12-rebound outing against Belmont (12/21) marked her second double-double this year.

    Halfway There
    Despite holding a 255-245 advantage over its opponents in the first half, SIU has struggled in the second half, where it is being outscored 299-263. Averaging just 64.8 points per game, the Salukis have scored under 20 points in a half two times this season, including 19 in the second half against Kentucky (11/25) and 18 in the second half against Belmont (12/21).

    Fab Five
    Part of SIU's early-season success has come at the free throw line, where five Salukis are shooting 70 percent or better. Molly McDowell leads the team with a boiling .912 (31-of-34) percentage, while Katie Berwanger (.800), Jodi Heiden (.778), Dana Pinkston (.700) and Megan Miller (.727) close out fearsome list.

    Arc!!, Who Goes There?
    SIU continues to have problems shooting from behind the three-point arc, where it is making just 3.5 treys per game. The Salukis are 28-of-116 (.241) from downtown after eight games, and luckily, their opponents (32-of-116) aren't shooting much better. However, SIU meets SMS Friday, and the Lady Bears are coming off a new Valley record of 15 three-pointers against Arkansas-Little Rock (12/29).

    McDowell Garners All-Tournament Honors
    Senior guard Molly McDowell was named to the all-tournament team at the 15th Annual Long Beach Classic (12/20-21). In two games, McDowell scored 22 points on 6-of-16 shooting, including a tournament high of 18 points against Mercer.

    100-Point Club
    Several SIU players are nearing the 100-point mark this season. So far, Molly McDowell stands as the only Saluki to have cleared that plateau with 108 points. Tiffany Crutcher (70), Katie Berwanger (66) and Jodi Heiden (65) are the next closest to joining the club.

    Did You Know? . . .
    SIU is 3-2 when shooting under 40 percent from the field, 3-1 when outrebounding opponents, 3-1 when attempting more free throws than opponents, 4-2 when holding opponents to 70 points or less and 3-1 when its bench outscores its opponents' bench?

    See Saw Scoring
    Although being outscored 544-518 after its first eight games this season, SIU only trails its opponents by a margin of 3.2 points. The Salukis are averaging 64.8 points per game, while their foes are scoring 68.0.

    M * A * S * H Report
    Freshman Afton Gill has missed all of the Salukis' games this season due to chronic recurring headaches. Junior transfer