November 15, 2000
BLOWIN' INTO THE WINDY CITY . . . Southern Illinois University Carbondale's women's basketball team travels to Chicago, Ill. this weekend to face the University of Illinois-Chicago Saturday, Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. This year's season-opener marks a new era in Saluki women's hoops as Lori Opp enters her first season at the helm of the SIU program.
MY KIND OF TOWN, CHICAGO IS . . . SIU will look to extinguish the Flames for the fourth consecutive time as the series currently stands at 8-4 in favor of the Salukis. The last time the two teams met was Nov. 29, 1999 at SIU Arena where the Dawgs came away with a 62-46 victory. Prior to last year's contest, SIU and Illinois-Chicago hadn't met since 1983. Interestingly enough, of the 12 outings, SIU has won three of four games on the Flames' homecourt.
THE LAST TIME WE MET . . . The Saluki defense smothered the Flames into 27 turnovers a year ago as Illinois-Chicago suffered a 62-46 loss at SIU Arena. The Flames, who struggled to get it going offensively, shot 32 percent from the field and were stunned by an off-the-bench performance from SIU freshman Janina Lopez. Lopez, who left the Salukis at the end of last season, knocked down 5-of-6 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point land to lead the Dawgs with 14 points. Terica Hathaway also added 11 points while Kristine Abramowski led in rebounds with seven. The Flames were paced by junior college transfer Kim Henry with 19 points, six steals and three assists. Erin Partaker also chipped in eight points for UIC.
THE COACHES . . .Southern Illinois University head coach Lori Opp (Western Illinois '88) enters her first season at the helm of the Saluki women's basketball program. Opp (Havana Ill.), who was named head coach in August, spent the last two seasons as the Salukis' assistant coach/recruiting coordinator. Prior to SIU, Opp served as a graduate assistant coach at Western Illinois (1988-90) and an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois (1990-93), Indiana State (1994-95), and Murray State (1995-98). With over 11 years of Division I coaching experience, Opp brings an unlimited amount of knowledge and enthusiasm to this year's squad as she is now the sixth head coach in the program's 41-year history.
University of Illinois-Chicago's Tim Eatman (Talladega '88) enters his third season as head coach of the Flames. After a rough 5-22 start in his first year at the helm, Eatman guided UIC to a near-.500 (14-15) mark and a fourth-place finish in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference last season. Before joining the Flames' staff, Eatman served as an assistant coach at the Kansas University, where he was instrumental in the team's recruiting success. During his term at KU, the Jayhawks captured a Big 12 championship and made an NCAA tournament appearance. A longtime successful recruiter, Eatman's career is highlighted by the production of six All-Americans, one Kodak All-American, and one Big 12 Player-of-the-Year.
SALUKIS TABBED EIGHTH IN THE VALLEY'S PRESEASON POLL . . . Southern Illinois was voted eighth in this year's Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll which is exactly where the Salukis finished last season after its 5-13 performance in league play. SIU received 102 votes to just beat Illinois State (101) for the eighth spot. Southwest Missouri State was picked the league favorite for the second time in the past three years and fourth in the last six to win the conference. Drake, who won the MVC title outright a year ago, was then picked second while Evansville was chosen third rounding out the top three in this year's poll.
ABOUT THE SALUKIS . . . Along with the return of three starters and nine letterwinners, SIU adds five newcomers to this year's squad who will look to better its 8-20, 5-13 record from a year ago.
BACKCOURT: A pair of sophomores in Molly McDowell and Lynn Morancie return to help solidify a backcourt that will see some new faces. McDowell made an impressive debut in her rookie season shooting a sizzling 77 percent from the free throw line which ranked second on the team. McDowell's ability to see the court well and play good defense enabled her to lead the Salukis in both steals (39) and assists (82), while finishing third in blocks (9). Morancie, who saw limited action in 21 games last season, will be joined by the new addition of junior transfer Holly Teague as the duo will battle for the point job since either of the two has the ability to fill the role.
PERIMETER: Senior Terica Hathaway looks to be a threat in the Missouri Valley Conference again this season as she returns for her final year as a Saluki. Hathaway led the Dawgs in scoring with an average of 11 points per game while shooting 70 percent (42-60) from the free throw line. Additionally, she finished second in assists (50) and third in steals (30). Assisting Hathaway on the perimeter will be senior Courtney Smith,. Smith, whose foot injury limited her to just 16 games last season, appears to be healthy for the 2000-01 campaign and should be able to contribute immediately. Smith averaged 4.2 points per game in her 16 appearances while adding 15 steals and 30 assists. Rounding out the perimeter is the freshman duo of Angela Tolbert and Jennifer Wegley who will also bid for playing time on the wing. Tolbert has a natural ability to slash to the basket and score while Wegley seems to be a natural leader with a do-anything-you-ask type work ethic.
FRONTCOURT: The Salukis will have to do some adjusting in the frontcourt as senior forward Maria Niebrugge leaves a gap to fill after undergoing off-season knee surgery. On the flipside, senior Kristine Abramowski returns as the Salukis' center to provide a spark in what should be a potent inside attack. Averaging 6.3 points per game while grabbing 6.6 rebounds last season, Abramowski finished as SIU?s leading shot-blocker (29) and third highest assists leader (42). While Abramowski sports an intimidating presence on the block with her 6-3 frame, junior Geshla Woodard (6-0) and sophomore Katie Berwanger (6-0) also return to give the Salukis some size underneath. Woodard, who is coming off a productive summer, contributed solid play off the bench last season shooting 40 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free throw line. Berwanger, on the other hand, is focused and will also look to add some spunk inside the paint. Sophomore Danielle Lawary (6-0) caps off the host of returning players to the frontcourt this season. For Lawary, conditioning will be a key to her success this season. In addition to the five returnees, freshmen Jodi Heiden and Tiffany Crutcher will be relied on to contribute immediately.
ABOUT THE FLAMES . . . After a rough 5-22 outing in head coach Tim Eatman's first year at the helm, Illinois-Chicago regrouped last season to post a near-.500 finish (14-15) while placing fourth in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (8-6). Although last year's battle appeared as though SIU won rather convincingly over the Flames (62-46), rest assured, this year's matchup will be a dogfight. Illinois-Chicago returns all five starters from a year ago, four of which are seniors. Kimberly Henry will spearhead the charge as the forward out of Opelousas, La., was the MCC's Newcomer-of-the-Year last season. Additionally, Henry led the Flames in scoring with an average of 13.6 points per game. Senior guard/forward Melea Clark will also be one the Salukis cannot overlook. Clark, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was the team's second leading scorer averaging 12.4 points per game. She also led the team in three-point percentage shooting .410. Henry and Clark will be joined by Consuela Hall, Amanda Bartz, and Stephanie Jost who close out the patented fivesome. Hall was the team's leader in free throw percentage (.770) while Bartz listed first in three-pointers (69) and Jost led in blocks (52).
HOLLOWAY TO FACE FORMER TEAMMATES . . . Junior guard Kim Holloway, now with Illinois-Chicago, will face her former Southern Illinois University teammates for the first time since she left the Salukis in April. Holloway, who suffered injuries most of her career at SIU, decided to leave the squad for personal reasons. A year ago, Holloway was the Salukis' starting point guard who played in 19 games before her season was cut short due to a fractured wrist which occurred in a mid-January practice. In addition, she played in just 29 career games for the Salukis averaging 2.7 points per game.
EXHIBITION RECAP . . . SIU concluded its exhibition schedule last week with a 85-71 win over Goldstar. Prior to the win, the Salukis defeated the Slovakian national team 76-69. Despite turning the ball over 24 times, SIU made up for its miscues with solid rebounding and clutch free throw shooting to put the Slovakians to rest. The Salukis connected on 30-of-39 free throws and pulled down 46 rebounds for the game. Terica Hathaway shot 9-of-10 from the free throw line and 4-of-15 from the field to lead the Dawgs with 17 points. Molly McDowell, Kristine Abramowski, and Holly Teague also posted double-digit performances. McDowell scored 13 while Abramowski and Teague chipped in 11. Angela Tolbert and Katie Berwanger also had strong outings. Tolbert added eight points off the bench and Berwanger grabbed a team-leading 11 rebounds. Abramowski connected on a perfect 8-of-8 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line scoring 19 points to lead SIU over Goldstar. McDowell (11) and Teague (6) combined for 17 of the team's 26 assists. Solid defense also prevailed in the Salukis' win as SIU registered 13 steals led by Hathaway's four. Hathaway (14) and freshman Jodi Heiden (12) also joined Abramowski in double figures.
INJURY UPDATE . . . Forwards Danielle Lawary and Courtney Smith were cleared to practice at full strength Tuesday as both sat out the exhibition season. Lawary had been suffering an achilles tendon strain in her left heel while Smith was out with a stress fracture in her left tibia. Maria Niebrugge is on a day-to-day basis with severe chondromalacia of the left knee. Niebrugge, who underwent knee surgery in the off-season, is currently in rehab and her return is undetermined at this time. Despite having some breathing problems which are currently under testing, Molly McDowell will play this weekend.
DAWGS ON T.V. . . . WSIU/WUSI-TV-8 will televise a pair of Southern Illinois University women's basketball games this season. Those games will be the Jan. 27 matchup vs. Illinois State (4:05 p.m.) and the Jan. 31 contest vs. Bradley (7:05 p.m.). The pair of league games will be played at SIU Arena.
CATCH THE LATEST IN SALUKI WOMEN'S HOOPS ON THE WEB . . . Information regarding Southern Illinois University women's basketball can be accessed on the team's official website at www.siu.edu/~wbball. Game notes, releases and statistics will be available each week.
MVC SCOREBOARD PHONE . . . Get the latest scores from around the Missouri Valley Conference by calling the Valley's Scoreboard phone at (314) 997-9877. Scores and highlights from all league sports will be updated each night.