SIU Women's Basketball Prepares for Louisiana-Lafayette

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    November 21, 2000

    Heading to Louisiana . . . The Southern Illinois University Carbondale women's basketball team concludes a two-game roadswing this weekend when the Salukis travel to Lafayette, La., Saturday, Nov. 25, to take on the University of Louisiana-Lafayette at 11 a.m. The Salukis are coming off a 57-40 win at Illinois-Chicago last week and are off to their best start in four years standing at 1-0.

    The Land of the Cajun . . . Although this weekend's matchup will mark the first meeting between SIU and Louisiana-Lafayette, it will not be the first time the Salukis visit the land of the cajun. SIU holds a combined series record of 2-1 against Louisiana schools. Those opponents include Louisiana State (1-0), Louisiana Tech (0-1), and McNeese State (1-0).

    Saluki Flashback . . . Despite an ugly first half which saw both teams play scoreless basketball for 8:24 while shooting an identical 33 percent from the field, Southern Illinois rallied to a 57-40 victory over the University of Illinois-Chicago last Saturday in Lori Opp's debut as head coach. After being down 25-22 at the break, SIU smothered the Flames into eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of the second half which resulted in a 14-2 run that proved to be the difference. Molly McDowell (5) and Holly Teague (4) combined for nine steals during the spurt that highlighted McDowell (6) and Terica Hathaway teaming up to score 12 of the 14 points. Teague led the Dawgs in scoring with 14 points (5-10) while Kristine Abramowski added 12 and both McDowell and Hathaway each chipped in 10.

    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 Louisiana-Lafayette's Gay Nix (Centenary, '74) enters her fifth year as head coach of the Ragin' Cajuns. Prior to joining the Ragin' Cajun staff in 1996-97, Nix served as one of the most successful women's basketball coaches in Louisiana prep history. Accumulating a 444-136 record in 17 years as a prep coach, Nix guided her teams to seven state championships and 12 district titles. She also mentored five players who were honored as the state's Player-of-the-Year. As the Cajuns' head coach, she has led the program to two of its best seasons in recent years and one of the most dramatic turnarounds in school history. After a disastrous 1-26 season in 1998-99, the Cajuns put together a 12-win season in 1999-2000. Winning 12 games, the most in 12 years, the Cajuns posted one of the best turnarounds in the country. Nix is 26-84 as the Cajuns' head coach.

    A Brief Moment in History . . . Last weekend, Southern Illinois enjoyed its first season-opening win since 1996-97 when the Salukis defeated Murray State 95-63 (11/23). The win not only marked the fourth consecutive time SIU has defeated the Flames, but it was also the fourth time the Salukis won on UIC's homecourt.

    About the Salukis . . . Southern Illinois, who is coming off a 57-40 victory against Illinois-Chicago, will look to maintain its momentum this weekend against the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. Solid defense and rebounding has been the key to the Salukis' success this season as SIU forced 20 turnovers while pulling down 45 rebounds in its season opening win. Although the defense has been impressive, Southern Illinois must pick it up offensively as the Dawgs are shooting a mere .378 from the field. Junior transfer Holly Teague spearheads the charge as the spunky point guard from Poplar Bluff, Mo., enters this weekend's matchup coming off a stellar performance which included 14 points, four assists, four steals, and seven rebounds.

    Scouting the Cajuns . . . Head coach Gay Nix's bunch enters Saturday's contest at 1-0 after defeating the University of Texas-El Paso by a score of 81-65. After a brutal 1-26 season in 1998-99, the Ragin' Cajuns regrouped and put together one of the best turnarounds in the country last year. Now, with its confidence boosted and its emotion running high, Louisiana-Lafayette has a changed attitude. Leading the Cajuns is forward Billie Popovska who averaged 10.8 points per game last season. Popovska, a senior from Melbourne, Australia, scored 13 points (6-of-9, 1-of-3 free throws) to go along with two rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal last week against the Miners. Popovska joins forces with sophomore Charlotte Green who impressed nearly every coach that saw her in her rookie season last year. Green led the Cajuns in scoring against UTEP shooting 7-of-13 from the field and 2-of-4 from the free throw line scoring 16 points. Three others in Erin Dease, Breanne Evans, and DeLesha Qualls also registered double figures against the Miners. Dease scored 12 points while Evans had 13 and Qualls tallied 11.

    McDowell Posts Career High . . . Sophomore guard Molly McDowell registered a career-high five steals last weekend against Illinois-Chicago. The native of Fillmore, Ill., gathered four thefts in the second half en route to surpassing her previous mark of four steals which was set last season versus Southwest Missouri State (2/13/00).

    Teague makes Impressive Debut . . . Junior point guard Holly Teague opened her career as a Saluki with a remarkable performance last week versus Illinois-Chicago. Teague, a transfer from Three Rivers C.C., shot 5-of-10 (.500) from the field while knocking down 2-of-3 from downtown to lead the Dawgs in scoring with 14 points. In addition, she shot a perfect 2-of-2 from the free throw line, dished out four assists, and grabbed seven rebounds.

    Seeing Double . . . Three other Salukis in Kristine Abramowski, McDowell, and Terica Hathaway also joined Teague in posting double-figures last week. Abramowski scored 12 points on 3-of-7 from the field and 6-of-11 from the free throw line while Hathaway and McDowell each chipped in 10. Hathaway was 4-of-10 from the field and 2-of-3 from the foul line while McDowell connected on 1-of-5 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.

    Woodard gives Dawgs a Lift . . . Junior forward Geshla Woodard started the first game of her career last week in Chicago, Ill. Woodard, who saw action in 32 games prior to Saturday's game, was instrumental in the Salukis' victory. In 22 minutes of play, Woodard grabbed four rebounds, scored a point, and had two steals. She replaced the injured Katie Berwanger who went down with an injury during the team's practice last Friday.

    113 and Counting . . . After Saturday's game, senior guard Terica Hathaway stands just 113 points away from reaching the 1,000-point mark and 173 points from becoming tied for 16th on the Salukis' all-time scoring list. Hathaway's 10 points against the Flames last week currently places her at 887. As of now, Ann Kattreh, holds the 16th spot with 1,060 points (1983-87).

    Looking to make history again this week . . . If the Salukis defeat Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, the 2000-01 unit will become the first team in school history to win the first two games in a season since 1991-92. Under then head coach Cindy Scott, Southern Illinois opened the 1991-92 year with four consecutive wins over Illinois (73-48), Tennessee Tech (73-68), Murray State (88-63), and Wisconsin (70-69). Those four wins added to a 23-8 finish which currently ranks as the best season the Salukis have had in nine years.