January 15, 2009
Eagles hustle past Panthers
at Southern Indiana (9-7, 2-5 GLVC): 65
Kentucky Wesleyan (7-8, 2-4 GLVC): 61
EVANSVILLE, Ind.—The University of Southern Indiana women's basketball team has been slow out of the gates in its last three games and Thursday was no different as the Screaming Eagles fell behind, 17-5, in the early stages of their contest with rival Kentucky Wesleyan College.
The Eagles, however, used a scrappy defensive effort, a strong rebounding performance, and some hot free-throw shooting to rally past the visiting Panthers and hold on for a much-needed 65-61 victory in front of 1,000 fans at the Physical Activities Center.
"We got after the basketball a little more and it got some things going," Head Coach Rick Stein said. "We are at our best when we are getting things done off the defensive end and you saw more of that in the last 10 minutes of the first half."
The Eagles (9-7, 2-5 GLVC), who stopped a three-game skid with the victory, forced the Panthers into 18 turnovers and out-rebounded Kentucky Wesleyan 40-28. They used a 20-8 run to close the first period and go into the break in a 25-25 stalemate.
Freshman guard Rinesha Soaper
(Henderson, Kentucky) came off the bench to score half of her 14 points and record four of her game-high five steals in the first period to aid the Eagles comeback.
Soaper continued what she started in the first half as she scored five quick points to propel the Eagles to an 8-2 run at the start of the second stanza, giving the Eagles a 35-27 edge and momentum in what turned out to be a run-laden final 20 minutes.
"Rinesha has a well-rounded game," Stein said. "She scores 14 points, has three rebounds, three assists, doesn't have a turnover, and has five steals. What a box score! For her to step up like she did tonight shows how important she is to our basketball team."
Soaper was not the only player to contribute to the Eagles Thursday evening as senior forward/center Ninette Evans
(Memphis, Tennessee) added 12 points, 10 of which came in the final period, and eight rebounds.
"They were huge," Stein said of Evans and Soaper. "You talk about their baskets made, but you've got to look at the rebounds and the number of steals those two had between them. The defensive end was huge for us tonight and I think those two were huge in that category."
With USI clinging to a 41-40 advantage with less than 13 minutes to play in the contest, Evans stepped up her offensive output as she accounted for eight points in an 11-2 run that pushed the Eagles' advantage to double-digits.
Kentucky Wesleyan (7-8, 2-4 GLVC), however, fought back as it cut the Eagles advantage to a single basket (52-50) with five minutes remaining in the game.
USI, however, connected on 13-of-14 free throw attempts in the final five minutes to thwart the Panthers' comeback bid. For the game, USI went 19-of-20 from the charity stripe, 17-of-18 in the final period.
"We've talked about free throws all year and we've really taken pride in them," Stein said. "We got to the line tonight, got there more than Wesleyan did, and when we needed them, we topped them off.
"That's what you have to do to win basketball games," Stein continued. "That's what you have to do to beat good teams. We stepped up and made them pay at the line tonight."
The Eagles also benefitted from the performance of sophomore guard Ellen Young
(Salem, Illinois), who had a game-high 18 points and a team-best four assists, as well as senior forward/center Brittany Neuman
(Huntingburg, Indiana), who added eight points and eight rebounds.
Kentucky Wesleyan was led by senior center Whitney Waddell, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore forward Amanda Harnist, who added 14 points and four rebounds.
USI returns to action January 22 when it opens GLVC West Division play against the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Tip-off is slated for 5:15 p.m. at the PAC.
USI Sports Information