Women’s basketball: Lady Bears top Division I SIUC

| Senior Sports Editor

The Division I Southern Illinois University Carbondale women’s basketball team received a wake-up call from Washington University as the Bears defeated the Salukis 84-74.

“No team can expect to walk in the gym and win,” graduate student Jaimie McFarlin said. “You have to play to win.”

Wash. U. kept the game tight throughout the first period despite shooting 12 for 32 from the field. The first half featured six ties, but the Salukis took a one-point lead into halftime on a jumper by Saluki leading scorer Stephany Neptune. Neptune, a Division II All-American at Tusculum College last year, had 25 points and 15 rebounds.

Inside the locker room during the break, the Bears talked about their strengths and weaknesses. Many members of the team had faced similar pressures before in last year’s exhibition game against SLU and in the Final Four at Hope College.

“We didn’t come here to play a close game,” co-captain senior Zoë Unruh said. “We came to win.” With that mantra and renewed focus, Wash. U. started the third quarter with four consecutive field goals.

The Bears shot 59.3 percent in the second half and went on a 19-5 run late in the game. Unruh, who had scored only five points in the first half, added 16 points to lead the Bears.

The Salukis’ height helped them out-rebound the Bears 41-29. Despite that advantage, the Bears persevered. In one instance, sophomore guard Dani Hoover squeezed through three defenders who were at least 6 inches taller than her, and scored a layup to beat the buzzer, according to McFarlin. The Red and Green also forced 26 turnovers while committing 18 of their own.

Wash. U. closed out the game by going 11 for 12 from the line in the last four minutes of the game. “It felt really good to walk off that court being the D-III that beat the D-I,” McFarlin said.

The Bears are ranked No. 1 in multiple preseason polls and have high hopes for the season.

“We made a statement to ourselves that we can compete with anyone, we can beat anyone,” Unruh said. The Red and Green open the regular season at home on Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. against Augustana College.

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