Saluki Womens Basketball opens exhibition play

By Jeremy Sneed

The Salukis took home their first win of the season tonight against the Maryville Saints.  Though an exhibition game, there was plenty to be learned.

With Dyanna Pierre and Azia Washington out for potentially a few weeks, the first thing the Salukis needed to learn was how they could perform without their two best players.  Well the answer to that question, is not very well.  The Salukis did win 66-60 but the game should have never been that close.  Maryville is a Division II school and SIU was listed as one of the best school’s in the Missouri Valley Conference Pre-season Poll.

It seems as though the Salukis felt overly confident going into this match-up thinking Maryville didn’t stand a chance. However, the Saints came back multiple times to make it a close game, including a 12-9 run to end the first quarter only trailing by three – a small gap the Saints pushed the Salukis to again later in the game.

Needless to say, the game was very ugly on both sides. There were a total of 33 turnovers in this game, 19 of which were by SIU.  It will be very tough for the Salukis to get at least 4th in the conference with 19 turnovers.  After the game, Coach Stein was critical of the team saying that the two things they need to work on are controlling the turnovers and hitting free throws.  The Salukis only went 9-21 from the line for a 42.9%.  Coach Stein’s synopsis of the game was stated simply, “Way too many turnovers.”  I would have to agree.

Looking past the negatives, players like Rishonda Napier, Cartaesha Macklin, and Kylie Gielbelhausen were the bright spots in tonight’s game.  Napier looked smooth as butter tonight, besides having 5 turnovers of her own, swiftly moving past defenders at will.  Throughout the night Napier was a problem to match up with, crossing over and going behind her back to create opportunities for her and her teammates on the court.  Napier finished the game with 10 points on 4-9 shooting and 8 assists.

Gielbelhausen gets my vote for player of the game for her performance tonight.  She only shot 6-16 but she had 16 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals.  Pretty much she did everything out there – without her this game would have been completely different.  Macklin shot 50 percent from the field scoring 15 points and adding 10 rebounds.  If the Salukis get more performance like the ones Macklin and Gielbelhausen put on tonight, they should be in good shape while Pierre and Washington are out.

While the ladies do need to watch the turnovers and shoot better than 42% from the free throw line, key players like Napier and Macklin stepped up and helped the Salukis to their 66-60 victory.  Post game, not only did Napier and Gielbelhausen sound optimistic about the season, Coach Stein did as well.  Regarding her team being ranked 4th in the pre-season poll and she replied with, “It’s fair,” adding that those were the teams that finished ahead of the Salukis last season and “the plan is to win it all.”

The Salukis will continue exhibition as they take on the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers at 2 p.m. November 7 at SIU Arena.