CARBONDALE (SIU ATHLETICS (STORY)/WSIL (VIDEO) -- The Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-0) used a 14-3 third quarter run to break a 33-all tie and build a lead it never relinquished in a 65-52 win over the Southern Illinois Salukis Wednesday afternoon inside Banterra Center.
The Salukis (0-1) led by six (29-23) at the half but the Eagles erased SIU's advantage with a 10-4 run to open the third quarter. From there, Eastern Michigan scored 14 of the next 17 points to take a 47-36 lead with 1:36 to play in the frame. Southern trimmed its deficit down to six, 51-45, with 7:28 remaining, but that was as close as they could get.
SIU, who was forced to utilize an inexperienced starting lineup that featured just one player (Abby Brockmeyer) that has started more than double-digit games in her career, was undone by its opening game jitters. SIU shot 29.5-percent (18-of-61) from the floor, which included just 6-of-24 (25%) from behind the arc. To make matters more difficult, the Salukis turned the ball over 18 times- which the Eagles turned into 23 points.
"It's not obviously how we want to play," eighth-year head coach Cindy Stein said. "First game jitters had a lot to do with it. You have to give Eastern Michigan a lot of credit as they got us in early foul trouble and exposed our young rotations and our lack of depth inside. We didn't do a good job of handling their runs. This is a starting point. We haven't had any scrimmages up to this point. So we have to learn as we go along and we will get better."
Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, seemed to find its groove offensively as the game progressed. The Salukis held the Eagles to 30-percent (9-of-30) from the field in the first half but Eastern Michigan rebounded in a big way after the break, shooting at a 48.5-percent (17-of-35) clip in the second half, which included 64.7-percent (11-of-17) from the floor in the third stanza. Preseason All-MAC selection Areanna Combs, who Southern held to just five points in the first half, went off for 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the second half to finish with a game-high 24 points.
"We are a lot better defensively than we showed," Stein said. "Honestly it was more of our one-on-one defense and just keeping players from getting in the paint on us. We have to get better at that and to have a sense of urgency to get from spot to spot within our rotations. We would do the first two actions in a defensive possession really well but then we wouldn't get the takeaway on a blocked shot or we would give up an offensive rebound because we didn't box out. We have to clean that up."
Southern was led by its seniors; Abby Brockmeyer, Rachel Pudlowski, and Makenzie Silvey. Brockmeyer led all Salukis with 12 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks, while Pudlowski played a career-high 25 minutes and scored 10 points. It marked just the second time in her career, and first time since Dec. 2, 2017, that the senior from O'Fallon, Mo. has scored in double figures. Silvey was the third Saluki to score in double-digits as she chipped in 10 points and added six boards.
SIU's youth was also on full display. Allea Potter made her first collegiate start, while Frankie Kokkines played a career-high 10 minutes. All three of Southern's newcomers that dressed, Quierra Love, Adrianna Katcher and Jeniah Thompson played significant minutes. Love finished with six points and two assists in her first career game, while Katcher added two points and eight boards in 18 minutes of work.
"I thought Abby Brockmeyer had a really good first half and did a great job for us," Stein said. "Rachel Pudlowski gave us some really good minutes, as did Adrianna Katcher. They were some of the people who did what they were supposed to do and showed me things that I like."
The fact that Southern even got to play its home opener without a hitch was a fact that wasn't lost on Stein and her coaching staff.
"Today was a winner in the fact that we were able to play," Stein. "I want to thank our event management staff, our administration, our game clock operators and our scorers table for helping us play this game. Teams all over the country are dropping off left and right and pausing their schedules. I feel honored in the fact that we were able to play."
The Salukis are on the road for the first time this season on Sunday when they travel down I-57 to take on the Memphis Tigers. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.