Southern Set to Take On Evansville Sunday at 2 p.m.

    In MVC play, Mercedes Griffin has nearly doubled her scoring and nearly tripled her assist output from non-conference play.

    In MVC play, Mercedes Griffin has nearly doubled her scoring and nearly tripled her assist output from non-conference play.
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    Jan. 25, 2014

    Southern Illinois (3-14, 1-5 MVC) vs. Evansville (7-10, 2-4 MVC)
     Date Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014
     Time 2:05 p.m. CST
     Location Carbondale, Ill. -- SIU Arena
     Video Saluki All-Access
     Radio Saluki Sports Network | 105.1 FM (Carbondale)

     Notes Southern Illinois | Evansville | MVC
     Season Stats Southern Illinois | Evansville | MVC
     Live Stats Gametracker | Valley Scoreboard
     Social Media @SIU_WBasketball | @EvasnvilleWBB

    The Southern Illinois women's basketball team hosts Evansville on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. CST at SIU Arena. the Salukis are wrapping up a stretch of nine games at home in the past 11. SIU has only played two road games since Jan. 4. After the game against Evansville, the Salukis play five of their next seven games on the road.

    The all-time series with Evansville is tied, with each team winning 24 games in a series that dates to 1985. Evansville won both regular-season games against SIU last year, but Southern knocked off the Purple Aces in the first round of the MVC tournament. The Salukis have won three of the past five games against Evansville in SIU Arena and have won six of the last 10 games overall in the series.

    The K9 Crew Frisbee Dogs will perform at halftime. The flying frisbee dog show will also perform at halftime of the men's game on Wednesday, Jan. 29, against Indiana State

    Evansville was ranked ninth in the preseason poll. They started conference play 2-2 before dropping both games last weekend. Since Evansville is SIU's travel partner, the two teams have played essentially the same conference schedule and had very similar results. Both SIU and Evansville won their conference openers but lost two days later. After Southern beat Bradley in double-overtime, Evansville dropped a four-point game to the Braves. SIU lost to Loyola two days after Evansville opened its season with a win over the Ramblers. While SIU lost a two-point game to Drake on a put-back with 1.5 seconds left, Evansville was able to come away with a four-point win. Both teams lost by double-figures to Indiana State and Illinois State last week.

    The Purple Aces are led by Sara Dickey, who averages 17.4 points per game, which leads the MVC. Dickey, a freshman, has taken nearly twice as many field goal attempts as anyone else on the roster. Mallory Ladd averages a double-double with 12.1 points and an MVC-leading 10.5 rebounds per game, but Ladd did not play last weekend due to an injury.

    The Last Meeting
    Southern Illinois83  
    March 14, 2013
    St. Charles, Mo.
    Salukis hand Evansville 83-74 OT upset in MVC opening round
    The 10th-seeded Southern Illinois women's basketball team upset No. 7 seed Evansville 83-74 in a wild overtime affair Thursday night in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

    Both teams have had a week off since their last action. For Evansville, Illinois State ran away with a 78-54 win. UE shot just 25 percent from the field and 13 percent from the 3-point line. Illinois State led by 12 at halftime and kept a double-digit lead throughout the second half. Katie Ellerson had 15 points and Sara Dickey had 13 points to lead the Purple Aces.

    The Salukis found early offense against preseason MVC favorite Indiana State and jumped out to an 8-2 lead, but Southern couldn't muster much offense for the rest of the game. Despite holding the Sycamores to 38 percent shooting--the lowest field goal percentage SIU has held an MVC opponent this year--Southern only scored 44 points in the 63-44 loss.

    In only 48 career games, sophomore center Dyana Pierre has already vaulted into the top 10 in career blocks in SIU history. After posting the fourth-most blocks in a single-season in school history in 2012-13 (36), Pierre now ranks eighth all-time with 67 career blocks, surpassing Saluki Hall-of-Famer Sue Faber with three blocks against Loyola.

    With her one block against Indiana State, Pierre tied Faber's 31 blocks in 1982-83 for 10th most single-season blocks in school history. Pierre already has 31 blocks in 2013-14 and averages 1.8 per game, which ranks second the Valley. She has recorded at least one block in 15 of 17 games in 2013-14 and has more than one block in nine games.

    Mercedes Griffin taken settled in as the primary point guard for the Salukis. Though point guard is not the natural position for Griffin, she stepped into the role after no point guards were left on the roster when Cartaesha Macklin and Rishonda Napier were no longer available for the season. Griffin has seen her offensive numbers surge over the last few games, both scoring and passing. Griffin totaled 14 assists in 11 non-conference games (1.3 per game); but she surpassed that total in the first four MVC games this year. Griffin racked up 17 assists (4.3 per game) in the first four games and has 21 in MVC play (3.5 per game), which ranks sixth in the Missouri Valley. Griffin dished a career-best seven dimes to go along with her career-high 16 points in SIU's 74-72 loss at Drake.

    Griffin has picked up her scoring, too. After scoring in double-figures once in the first 13 games this season, Griffin has piled up 49 points in the last four games (12.3 per game), including a career-best 16 points at Drake.

    With the team having only nine available players, all nine have stepped up and contributed during MVC play. The entire available roster has played in every conference game. (Jordyn Courier was not available vs. Bradley due to illness.) Below is a list of contributions from all nine players through six conference games:

    Carlie Corrigan picked up her first two career starts against Drake and Northern Iowa and responded with a career-high seven rebounds and a 3-pointer at Drake.
    Jordyn Courier came off the bench to score a season-high nine points and added three rebounds and two assists against Loyola.
    Sidney Goins knocked down six 3-pointers--the second-most in a single game in school history--and had a career-high five assists in helping SIU beat Bradley 100-96 in double-overtime.
    Mercedes Griffin had career highs in both points (16) and assists (seven) at Drake and has nearly doubled her scoring average and nearly tripled her assist average from the non-conference.
    Ariel Haynes totaled 10 points, three assists, and six rebounds on a weekend road trip against Drake and Northern Iowa.
    Kim Nebo hit the game-clinching free throws in double-overtime to clinch SIU's conference win over Bradley. Nebo also posted career-bests in points (nine) and rebounds (four) at UNI.
    Dyana Pierre had a monster 33-point, 18-rebound performance to lead the Salukis to their win over Bradley.
    Hannah Shores had seven points, five assists and three rebounds in the win over the Braves.
    Azia Washington leads the Salukis in scoring in MVC play (15.5 per game) and posted 27 points and 15 rebounds against Bradley.

    Dyana Pierre and Azia Washington, the only two Salukis two have started all 17 games this year, have become two of the top rebounders in the MVC. Pierre ranks second in the conference in rebounding at 9.2 per game and third in MVC play at 9.3 boards in six conference games so far. Washington ranks seventh in the conference in rebounding in all games at 7.1 rebounds per game and ranks eighth in conference play, averaging 6.8 boards per game. Washington's 7.1 rebounding average would lead six teams in the Valley, and her and Pierre are the only duo in the conference that both rank in the top seven in the MVC in rebounding in both all games and conference-only games.

    In addition to rebounding, Pierre and Washington are two of the most accurate shooters in the conference. Pierre is shooting 51 percent from the field, which ranks fourth in the conference and is a 11-point increase over her shooting percentage last year (39.7 percent). Pierre has actually increased her percentage in conference play and is shooting 52 percent through six MVC games. Washington is shooting 55 percent in Valley play and 49 percent on the season. Both players rank in the top-10 in shooting percentage in conference in both all games and MVC games.

    Dyana Pierre has made herself a double-double machine for the Salukis. Pierre has recorded seven double-doubles in 17 games this year. In two years at SIU, Pierre has totaled 16 double-doubles. Against Bradley, Pierre put up 33 points and 18 rebounds, including eight offensive boards. In 17 games this year, Pierre has scored in double-figures 13 times and has recorded double-digit rebounds eight times; however, she has not recorded a double-double in the last four games, her longest stretch of the season without a double-double.

    Five of Southern's losses have come by single-digit margins, including four games decided by four points or fewer. Twice, SIU has has lost a two-point game with an opponent jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining, dropping games to Austin Peay and Drake at the last second.

    Southern has improved its defense from a season ago. After allowing 74.5 points per game in 2012-13, head coach Cindy Stein's crew is allowing only 70.6 points this year, a 3.9 points-per-game improvement even after SIU allowed four of its first five conference opponents to score 74 points or more. The Saluki defense currently ranks sixth in the 10-team league after placing 9th in scoring defense last season. The team's field goal percentage defense ranks fourth in the conference this year (.417). The Salukis held Drake, who entered their Jan. 10 matchup as the best 3-point shooting team in the MVC, to just 4-for-21 from long range (19 percent) and is No. 3 in MVC games in 3-point field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot only 23.5 percent from long range.

    The Salukis Go Pink game is set for Feb. 8. against Drake. Fans can bid on the game-worn pink jerseys that will be worn during the game, and winning bidders will have the opportunity to honor cancer survivors or victims by placing the name of their choosing on the backs of the jerseys. Bidding ends on Monday, Jan. 27. You can bid on your jersey HERE.

    Cancer survivors can get two tickets to the both the women's game and the men's Go Pink Game (Feb. 18) by calling Elizabeth Kirby at (618) 457-5200 (ext. 67841) or emailing her at Survivors will be honored on the court at halftime of both games. An informational flier on the promotion can be found HERE.

    The 2013-14 season is the first at SIU for head coach Cindy Stein, who inherited a team that went 5-26 in 2012-13 and didn't win more than eight games in the previous four seasons. Stein comes from Illinois Central College, where she coached ICC to a 32-4 record and a third-place finish at the NJCAA Division II national tournament during her lone season in 2012-13. Prior to Stein, ICC had gone 16-16 in 2011-12. Stein's coaching profile includes a successful 12-year stint at Missouri and a three-year period at Emporia State to start her head coaching career. Over 16 seasons as a head coach, Stein holds a 282-206 (.578) record, three NCAA Tournament appearances, a Sweet 16 run in 2001 and three trips to the WNIT -- all at Missouri.

    First-year SIU head coach Cindy Stein spent 12 successful seasons in Columbia, Mo., at the helm of Missouri's women's basketball program from 1998-2010. Stein inherited a Tiger basketball team that went 11-16 in 1997-98 and turned that around to 21-10 and a trip to the Sweet 16 by only her third season at Mizzou in 2000-01. Stein's run with the Tigers saw 185 wins, five WNBA Draft selections and seven postseason appearances -- including three NCAA Tournament appearances (2001, 04, 06). Stein's players earned 24 All-Big 12 honors (four First-Team) and 46 Academic All-Big 12 nods.

    Coach Stein brings a brand new support staff with her to Carbondale. Andrea Gorski (associate head coach), Kat Martin (assistant coach/recruiting coordinator), Christelle N'Garsanet (assistant coach), Amanda Hanneman (video coordinator) and former Saluki head coach Julie Beck (director of operations) round out the new crew in the Boydston Center offices. Gorski comes from Concordia University, where she turned around a sub-.500 club into a national NAIA powerhouse in five seasons. Martin comes from Kishwaukee College, where she was the associate head coach for six seasons. N'Garsanet, a former standout of Stein's at Mizzou and a 2006 WNBA Draft selection, spent two years at Illinoic Central College -- including Stein's 32-4 season in 2012-13. Hanneman is also a former player of Stein's at Mizzou from 2006-10, and she spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Sonoma State. Beck returns to Carbondale for her 30th year in Saluki Athletics as the director of operations. Beck was an assistant coach under Saluki Hall of Fame head coach Cindy Scott from 1981-1998, took over as head coach from 1998-2000, and worked in marketing and group sales for Saluki Athletics an additional 10 seasons after her coaching career ended.

    Southern Illinois was voted to finish tenth in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2013-14 in a preseason poll release on Oct. 30 at media day at Loyola University in Chicago. Indiana State was chosen to win the Valley crown with 26 first place votes, followed by Wichita State in second place with 13. Southern was voted to finish eighth in 2012-13, but finished tenth at the end of the season after posting a 5-26 record, which included a 1-17 conference record.

    The flagship station for Saluki women's basketball is WVZA 105.1 FM, although 10 regular season games will be broadcast on WHET 97.7 FM due to conflicts with SIU men's basketball broadcasts. Bryce Williams is in his second season as the full-time radio broadcaster for Saluki women's basketball, while Logan Lee enters his first season as the team's color commentator.

    The official Twitter of Saluki women's basketball is SIU_WBasketball. This account features team news as well as live in-game updates. Fans can also follow Saluki Athletics @SIUSalukis for news on all SIU sports.