It’s nothing personal about this year’s version of the Southern Illinois women’s basketball team, but Wichita State really doesn’t like the Salukis.
This stems from memories of last season’s trip to Carbondale, where the Shockers lost to one of the worst teams in the conference for their third straight loss. The tailspin cost the team sole possession of the MVC title.
It also was the game that triggered the soul searching that eventually brought the Shockers out of their funk and into their second straight NCAA Tournament. Still, the veterans on this team remember what Southern Illinois did to them last season.
That’s why Sunday’s game against a middle-of-the-pack team is so important for WSU. The game will start at approximately 3:45 p.m., or 30 minutes following the men’s game at Koch Arena.
“The biggest thing is being able to redeem ourselves from what happened last year,” WSU senior Alex Harden said. “We want to show them we’re a new Shocker team. It’s a different year and it’s a different us.”
There are no meaningless conference games for WSU, which is concerning itself with its NCAA Tournament at-large bid resume. The Shockers (15-3, 6-0 MVC) want to prove they belong with the nation’s best, and they recognize a loss to a team outside of the conference’s elite will harm their credibility come selection time.
Coach Jody Adams is confident this team is dialed in with its veteran leadership this season. But she expects her team to be especially focused on Sunday after what transpired last time WSU played SIU.
“I don’t think it’s something I need to bring up or have to say,” Adams said. “They should have already talked to their teammates and explained what happened. But the positive that came out of that was we learned a lot from that stretch. We bounced back and won a championship as a team.”
For the fourth straight season, Wichita State is dominating the first round of the Valley schedule. In 2011-12, WSU started 7-0; in 2012-13, it was 10-0; last season it was 12-0.
Harden said the team needed to “prove a point” against Southern Illinois. While WSU can’t knock off one of its challengers to the Valley throne, it can begin to build a case for why this group do what its predecessors never could: stay perfect.
“We definitely don’t want to learn from a loss,” senior Kelsey Jacobs said. “We can still learn from winning, and I think we can do that with this experienced of a team.”
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AT WSU WOMEN
When: 3:45 p.m. Sunday
Where: Koch Arena
Records: SIU 9-8, 2-4 MVC; WSU 15-3, 6-0