Saluki Women Hit the Road for a Pair of MVC Games

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    January 17, 2001

    SALUKIS HIT THE ROAD FOR A PAIR OF MVC GAMES . . . After coming up empty in a tough three-game homestand, Southern Illinois will try to bounce back this week as the Salukis set to play two games in three days. SIU will first head to Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 18 to take on Creighton (9-5, 3-2) at 7:05 p.m. The Dawgs will then travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to visit third place (MVC) Drake University (9-4, 4-1) Saturday, Jan. 20, in a matinee beginning at 2:05 p.m. SIU, who is currently on a three-game losing streak, stands at 4-10 overall and 1-3 in league play.

    CHRISTMAS BREAK BLUES . . . Since the official campus break for the holidays began prior to December 16, 2000, Southern Illinois has compiled a gloomy 2-5 record including just one win in the Missouri Valley Conference. In the midst of their slump, however, the Salukis have been playing rather well lately losing their last three games by no more than 11 points. All of which occurred to respective MVC opponents (Northern Iowa, SW Missouri, Wichita State).

    DEJA VU? . . . In the Salukis' last meeting with the Bluejays, SIU snapped a three-game losing streak with a 70-68 nail-biting win over Creighton. With that in mind, it almost makes you wonder if that may happen again when the two teams go head-to-head Thursday. In the last meeting with Creighton, Molly McDowell sunk two free throws with three tenths of a second on the clock to help the Dawgs snap their three-game skid which was also played in Omaha, Neb. At that time, the win not only marked SIU's seventh of the season, but it allowed the Salukis to jump from last to seventh place in the league standings. The Salukis were led by Terica Hathaway who scored 19 points and Maria Niebrugge who posted a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds. Danielle Lawary also pitched in 14 points off the bench.

    SCOUTING THE JAYS . . . Creighton is currently on a three-game losing streak highlighted by a 80-73 upset over Drake. The win handed the Bulldogs their only loss in conference play as they stand in third place with a 4-1 league mark. Senior guard Angela Timmons leads the Creighton charge this season averaging 13.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Although Timmons is the Bluejays' only player averaging double figures overall, two others are putting up double figures in conference games. Senior guard Krissie Spanheimer is averaging 10.6 points in MVC contests while freshman Christy Neneman is averaging 13.2 against league foes. A couple of the Bluejays' major strengths, however is that they are turning the ball over just 15.4 times per game while outscoring their opponents 981-898.

    SERIES HISTORY VS. CREIGHTON . . . SIU's 70-68 (Feb. 19, 2000) victory over Creighton last season snapped a six-game losing streak against the Bluejays as the overall series stands at 13-9 in favor of the Jays. Included in the 22 meetings dating back to 1983 when the series first began, there were two overtime battles that resulted in both teams winning one game apiece. Additionally, six of the nine SIU wins have been in Omaha, Neb.

    LAST TIME VS. DRAKE . . . Tied 11-11 in the first half, Drake went on a 19-8 run and never turned back as the Bulldogs slammed the Salukis by a score of 71-51 in Des Moines, Iowa. Terica Hathaway registered a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds to lead all Saluki scorers while Molly McDowell added 13 points. Kristin Santa led all Drake scorers with 15 points while Carla Bennett posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards.

    SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS . . . Drake looks to remain among the league leaders when it opens a two-game homestand beginning with Evansville (Jan. 18). Drake currently stands in third place with a record of 4-1 in the MVC, just one game behind league leader Northern Iowa. Evansville is then one game back of Drake at 3-2. The Bulldogs sport a balanced scoring attack with three of its five starters averaging 12 or more points per game. Sophomore guard Carla Bennett leads all Drake scorers this season with an average of 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds. Bennett is also averaging a double-double in conference games with 15.8 points and 10.2 boards. Bennett was named the Valley's Player-of-the-Week for the week of Jan. 2. Junior guard Stephanie Schmitz follows as the Bulldogs' second leading threat averaging 13.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. Junior Erin Richards then rounds out the top three leaders with 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds a game. In addition, Drake has dominated its opponents this season in scoring (886-836) and rebounding (517-508).

    SERIES VS. DRAKE . . . Drake leads the overall series with SIU by a count of 28-20 dating back to 1980 when the series made its debut. For the last four years, however, the Bulldogs have owned the duel with the Salukis winning the last nine straight games. SIU has not defeated Drake since February 1, 1996 when the Salukis won by a score of 73-66.

    THE COACHES . . . Southern Illinois University head coach Lori Opp (Western Illinois '88) is in 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 the sixth head coach in the program's 41-year history.

    One of the premier women's basketball players in Creighton history, Conni Yori (Creighton, Oe86) is in her ninth season at the helm and 16th season overall with the Bluejays women's basketball program. Throughout her tenure, Yori has consistently led her teams to contention for Missouri Valley Conference Championships, including a runner-up finish at the 1999 league tournament. Her Bluejay teams have won 15 or more games in six of her eight years as head coach while gaining two postseason berths.

    Lisa Stone, just the fourth coach in the history of Drake women's basketball, is in her first year as head coach of the Bulldogs. Stone came to Drake after a successful 12-year run as head coach at Wisconsin-Eau-Claire, where she guided her squads to 11 20-win seasons and 11 appearances in the NCAA Division III National Tournament while compiling a 277-59 record. In each of Stone's nine seasons, the Blugolds won at least 22 games and never lost more than six. Wisconsin-Eau Claire completed its best ever season in 1999-2000 with a 28-1 record, winning its first 28 games before falling in the NCAA Tournament to the eventual national champion in a game which pitted the two top-ranked teams in the country.

    ABOUT THE SALUKIS . . . Although the Salukis have lost three straight games, all three have seemed like wins in some way or another. SIU has been improving as of late and has lost no more than 11 points. Coming off a three-game homestand which the Salukis played host to three of the league's top five teams (Northern Iowa, SW Missouri, Wichita State), Molly McDowell leads the Dawgs with 15.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Averaging 21.0 points in league contests, McDowell is also coming off back-to-back career games. Senior Terica Hathaway follows with 13.0 points, 5.9 boards per game. Holly Teague then rounds out the top three scorers which have been the same mostly all season long, scoring 9.1 points and grabbing 2.1 rebounds.

    SALUKI REWIND . . . Wichita State's Jennifer Kaczka (28) and Angela Buckner (26) took control to give the Shockers a 89-83 win over Southern Illinois last Saturday in Missouri Valley Conference action at SIU Arena. Trailing the Salukis by three 35-32 with 3:50 left in the first half, WSU used an 11-2 run to its advantage as Kaczka hit three consecutive jumpers in 1:30 to give the Shockers a 43-37 lead at the break. SIU, who never led again after that, then pulled to within four points (75-71) on a pair of free throws by Molly McDowell with 4:53 left to play, but that was as close as the Dawgs would get as Wichita State ran away with the 89-83 win. McDowell scored a career-high 29 points on 6-of-13 from the field and 17-of-19 from the free throw line to lead the Salukis. Terica Hathaway also chipped in 14 while Holly Teague added 13.

    HOME NOT-SO SWEET HOME . . . Southern Illinois has won just one game this season on its own homecourt. In 14 games this season, the Salukis are a mere 1-5 at SIU Arena as their only win came against Tennessee-Martin (74-67) on December 19, 2000.

    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.

    NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION . . . Averaging nearly 22 turnovers per game prior to the turn of the new year, SIU has seen that number drop to 18.9 per game compliments of the last three games. Turning the ball over just 14.3 times in each of those three contests, the Salukis have registered a season-low 14 on two of the three occasions.

    GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY . . . Sophomore Molly McDowell has been on fire for the Salukis as of late posting career marks in back-to-back games. Against nationally-ranked SW Missouri, McDowell shot 10-of-20 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line for a career-high 28 points. She then turned around to connect on 6-of-13 from the floor and 17-of-19 from the foul line in the Salukis' latest venture against Wichita State scoring 29 points to edge her previous career mark. McDowell is the Salukis' leading scorer this season averaging 15.9 points per game while posting double figures in all but two games on the year.

    TEAGUE PROVES POINT . . . Junior point guard Holly Teague has scored double figures in two of the Salukis' last three contests. Most recently, however, Teague was 5-of-6 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from the free throw line in the Salukis' 89-83 loss to Wichita State. Teague also grabbed two rebounds, dished out five assists, and thieved two steals. Teague is the Dawgs? third leading scorer this season averaging 9.1 points per game.

    WHO LET THE DAWGS OUT? . . . Although the Salukis' last three games have been losses, there have been positive things happening to give reason to believe they have won. For example, SIU has been averaging just 14.3 turnovers per game which is a considerable decline after the Dawgs had been averaging more than 20 per contest. Additionally, in the game against SW Missouri, SIU played tough with the nationally-ranked Lady Bears all the way to the end before falling 81-70 which was surprising in the sense that no one seemed to believe the game would end up being that close.

    LAWARY PROVIDING BACKBONE . . . In what has been a sluggish inside game for the struggling two starters (Kristina Abramowski, Geshla Woodard) all season long, it has been sophomore Danielle Lawary who has stepped in to give the Salukis some hope underneath the basket. Averaging just 11.9 minutes per contest off the bench, Lawary has scored double figures in four games this season with a career-high 23 points in the Dawgs' only home win over Tennessee-Martin. Lawary is contributing 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.

    MORANCIE DISMISSED . . . It was announced Monday, Jan. 8, that sophomore guard Lynn Morancie was dismissed from the team and will not be with the Salukis for the rest of the season. Morancie, who was suspended earlier in the year due to disciplinary reasons, was placed on permanent leave from the team for those same reasons. Prior to her dismissal, Morancie played in eight games while averaging 3.1 points and 1.1 rebounds. Morancie is planning to transfer following the pending school year.

    TALE OF TWO HALVES . . . Southern Illinois has been an entirely different team in the second half this season as opposed to the first. In 14 games, the Salukis have been outscored by their opponents 487-422 in the first half. SIU once outscored its opponents by a count of 335-328 in the second half this season, but currently trail 548-532.

    INJURY REPORT . . . Sophomore Katie Berwanger did not have to undergo reconstructive knee surgery, but did get laser surgery instead. Following the surgery, it was stated that there is a 20% tear in Berwanger's ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus. At this point, the outlook on Berwanger is that she is to do rehab and it is most likely that she will not return for the rest of the season. Freshman Jennifer Wegley, who had been suffering from concussion, returned to the team's practice Jan. 1 and is cleared to go at full strength. Senior Maria Niebrugge still remains in rehab after undergoing knee surgery prior to the season. Although the rehab is going well for Niebrugge, it appears as though she may not return for the rest of the season. Senior Kristine Abramowski, who sprained an ankle over the Dawgs? break for the holidays, is back in the starting lineup at full strength. Junior Geshla Woodard still remains out of the starting lineup due to a hip flexor injury. After starting the first 11 games of the season, Woodard has missed the last two starts for the Dawgs.

    UP NEXT . . . After its two road games at Creighton and Drake, SIU will return home to host its second three-homestand of the season beginning Thursday, Jan. 25. On that day, the Dawgs will play host to Indiana State at 7:05 p.m. After the contest with the Sycamores, the Salukis will turn around to play IIllinois State on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 4:05 p.m., before concluding the homestand with Bradley on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7:05 p.m.