Lady Bears stumble in MVC opener
The Missouri State Lady Bears struggled out of the gate in the Missouri Valley Conference race, falling behind visiting Southern Illinois early and never recovering in a 63-38 loss Saturday evening at Hammons Student Center.
After junior guard Tahnee Balerio connected on a 19-foot jumper on the game’s first possession, Missouri State hit just 5-of-30 field goal attempts to close out the half. Keyed by a trio of Debbie Burris three-pointers, the Salukis outscored the Lady Bears 16-0 over an eight-minute, forty-second period to sieze control of the contest. Springfield native Jayme Sweere also turned in a big first half for SIU, scoring seven of the Saluki’s first 12 points to go along with four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in the opening stanza.
Missouri State shot just .194 (6-of-31) for the half, marking the second-straight game the Lady Bears have posted a sub-.250 shooting percentage in a half. Last week versus Western Illinois, they connected on just 22.2% of their first-half shots before finishing at .262 (16-of-61) for the game.
Southern Illinois converted 12-of-24 field goal attempts in the half and led by as many as 23 before settling for a 34-13 advantage at the break.
The Lady Bears opened the second half with a 15-6 run to trim the deficit to 12 points on a pair of Taylor Silas free throws at the 11:50 mark. But Jasmine Gibson answered by knocking down jumpers on the Saluki’s next two possessions to spark a 14-2 SIU spurt that put the game out of reach.
Dana Olsen led Southern Illinois with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while Sweere chipped in nine points, four assists, three blocks, two steals and seven rebounds.
Balerio went 7-of-14 from the floor to finish with a game-high 16 points.
The 25-point loss for MSU snapped a 19-game win streak versus Southern Illinois and represents the largest home defeat since March 7, 2002 when the Lady Bears fell to Wichita State by a 75-44 score.
With the loss, the Lady Bears fell to 0-1 in conference play and 4-6 overall, while the Salukis improved to 2-0 in The Valley and 6-7 on the season.
Next up, the Lady Bears travel to Evansville for a 5 p.m. game on Monday, Jan.1., before facing off against Wichita State next Saturday, Jan. 7., in a 12 p.m. contest at Hammons.