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January 27, 2009

Eagles see challenges as opportunities

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EVANSVILLE, Ind.The University of Southern Indiana women's basketball team is well aware of the challenges that are presenting themselves when the Screaming Eagles travel to Springfield, Missouri, to take on Drury University Thursday at 5:45 p.m. and to Rolla, Missouri, to face Missouri University of Science and Technology Saturday at 1 p.m.

Not only do the Eagles (10-8, 3-6 GLVC) face the daunting challenge of winning games on the road in league play, they have to do it against a pair of teams they are a combined 1-13 all-time against.

Despite the challenges, Head Coach Rick Stein is looking at this week more as an opportunity than anything else.

"When you go on the road and have a chance to play a team like Drury, it's a challenge that's always exiting," Stein said. "Drury is a program that is in front of us in the league standings and we are holding a slim lead over Missouri S&T. You look at it as great opportunities to catch up to one and get some distance from the other.

"What's happened in the past won't affect anything we do this week," Stein continued. "We know how hard it is to win on the road in this league and we are preparing to go on the road and try to get two wins."

In order to do that, the Eagles, who are third in the GLVC West Division, will have to slow down a pair of offenses that rank in the top four of the GLVC in field goal percentage.

"One of the things that has set the tone for this team, has been the standard for this team, has been the defensive end," Stein said. "The better we guard and rebound, the better we play and the better our offense is.

"We have to play solid team defense in the full and half court," Stein continued. "We have to guard better and this is something we work on every day. Defense leads to offense for us and hopefully we will see that this week."

Leading the Eagles' offense into Thursday's game are sophomore guards Ellen Young (Salem, Illinois) and Amie Newhart (Mulberry, Indiana). Young is averaging a team-best 13.6 points per contest, while Newhart is second on the team with 10.0 points per appearance.

Senior forward/center Brittany Neuman (Huntingburg, Indiana), who is coming off a career-high 27 points and 14 rebounds against Rockhurst University, leads the Eagles with 7.9 rebounds per game.

The Eagles, who are coming off a tough 77-67 setback to Rockhurst, have won two of their last three games including a dominating 92-73 victory over the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Drury (13-6, 7-2 GLVC) has won two straight games and four of its last five entering Thursday's contest. Junior guard/forward Lindsay Ballweg leads the Panthers with 14.0 points per contest, while junior forward/center Melanie Oliver is chipping in 12.7 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per appearance.

The Panthers, who won the GLVC championship in 2007-08, lead the all-time series with USI, 5-1, after sweeping the season series last year. Drury defeated USI, 79-65, last January in Springfield before taking a 72-57 decision at the Physical Activities Center later in the year.

Missouri S&T (8-9, 2-7 GLVC), which hosts Kentucky Wesleyan College Thursday evening, has lost three straight games and six of its last seven contests. Senior forward Tamara McCaskill leads the Miners with 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per outing, while senior center Katie McElrath is second on the squad with 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

The Miners lead the all-time series with USI, 8-0, after sweeping last year's season series. Missouri S&T defeated the Eagles, 78-63, last January in Rolla before posting a 71-61 win at the PAC later in the season.

Fans can follow the play-by-play on the radio at WSPR 90.7 FM or via the internet at Saturday's game also can be listened to on WSWI 820 AM.

Dan McDonnell,
USI Sports Information

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