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February 25, 2009

Eagles fall to Drury despite strong effort

at Drury (19-7, 13-3 GLVC): 75
Southern Indiana (14-12, 6-10 GLVC): 69
Box Score

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—The University of Southern Indiana women's basketball team fought back from a 13-point second half deficit to take a four-point lead into the final three minutes of the game against Drury University Wednesday night, but a 9-0 run in the final two minutes allowed the host Panthers to escape with a 75-69 victory over the Screaming Eagles.

Lauren Meneghetti

Abby Williams

USI (14-12, 6-10 GLVC) led by as many as 10 points in the opening frame before taking a 31-28 lead into the intermission. The Eagles extended their advantage to eight points following a three-pointer by sophomore guard Lauren Meneghetti (Munster, Indiana) and a bucket by junior guard/forward Abby Williams (St. Joseph, Illinois) in the first 60 seconds of the second period.

Drury (19-7, 13-3 GLVC), however, used a 14-1 run to claim a five point advantage and turn momentum into its favor. The Panthers continued their roll, extending their lead to 57-44 with just under 11 minutes to play in the game, and looked as if they would run away with the victory.

The Eagles, though, did not quit as they used two straight three pointers and a pair of free throws by Williams to cut the deficit to five points with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation. Williams finished the game with 11 points, 10 of which came in the last 20 minutes of the contest.

After a Drury basket pushed USI's deficit to seven points with nine minutes to play, the Eagles took over, using a 9-0 spurt to claim a brief 61-59 advantage. The two teams swapped baskets before a pair of free throws by Meneghetti, who finished with a team-high 15 points, made it a two-possession game (65-61).

USI led 67-63 and had a chance to add to its advantage with less than 2:30 to play in the game, but a missed free throw by Williams and a missed jumper by senior forward/center Brittany Neuman (Huntingburg, Indiana) seemed to put new life into the Panthers.

Junior forward Lindsay Ballweg hit a jump shot with two minutes remaining to cut the Eagles' lead in half. Then a turnover by USI freshman guard Rinesha Soaper (Henderson, Kentucky) led to a pair of free throws by Drury junior forward/center Melanie Oliver.

Following the game-tying free throws, back-to-back USI turnovers allowed the Panthers to take a 70-67 led with less than 40 seconds remaining on the clock. The Eagles had a chance at a game-tying three-pointer, but William's shot bounced off the iron and into the hands of Ballweg, who essentially ended any hope of a USI victory with a pair of free throws.

"We put ourselves in position to get a big road win, but we just couldn't finish it off." Head Coach Rick Stein said in his WSWI post-game radio show. "I'm proud of our team. I thought we played extremely hard and together, but we just made a little too many mistakes down the stretch."

In addition to Meneghetti and Williams, the Eagles got double-digit scoring efforts out of Soaper and sophomore guard Amie Newhart (Mulberry, Indiana), who finished with 12 and 14 points, respectively. Neuman added eight points and 14 rebounds, just a bucket shy of her fourth straight double-double.

Ballweg led the Panthers with a game-high 24 points, while Oliver chipped in 15 points and 13 rebounds.

USI can still clinch the third seed in the GLVC West Division and the final spot in the GLVC Tournament with a victory Saturday at Rockhurst University—tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. in Kansas City, Missouri. A Missouri University of Science and Technology loss to the University of Missouri-St. Louis Saturday also would put the Eagles into the league's post-season tournament.

Dan McDonnell,
USI Sports Information

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