The Wichita State women’s basketball team is two, maybe three, possessions removed from an eight-game winning streak and a comfortable spot in third place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Shockers have won six of those eight games and the other two came down to the last possession. They lost 61-58 to Southern Illinois on Sunday afternoon after Jeliah Preston’s attempt to tie in the final seconds fell short.
The close losses, including a five-point defeat against Missouri State last weekend, are simultaneously a maddening aspect to a tumultuous season and a sign of progress. WSU lost to SIU by 23 a month ago on the road.
WSU (11-12, 6-6 MVC) beat Evansville on the final shot on Friday night.
“Your team has to kind of develop a mentality that when it’s late in a game and the game is on the line, we’re going to pull together and get this done,” WSU interim coach Linda Hargrove said. “I think we’re getting there. I thought we were there against Evansville. That game could have gone either way.”
WSU’s fourth-quarter problems started under coach Jody Adams-Birch, who parted ways with the school last month during what became a five-game winning streak.
The Shockers entered Sunday’s fourth quarter with an eight-point lead, one basket removed from their largest advantage, 60-50 late in the third quarter. That’s when all of WSU’s best instincts became fleeting and SIU took control of the tempo.
WSU got plenty of shots in the paint but seemed bothered by the Salukis’ physicality. The Shockers converted 3 of 15 fourth-quarter attempts after making 9 of 14 in the third.
SIU (12-12, 6-7) wiped out the deficit quickly but didn’t take the lead for good until the 1:31 mark while making 9 of 13 shots in the fourth.
“It gave them opportunities,” Hargrove said of WSU’s poor offensive approach in the final quarter. “I think when we put up shots quickly or ill-advised shots and didn’t have anybody in position to rebound, they didn’t get any run-outs but they did get an opportunity to get extra possessions on us.”
WSU played without starting point guard Keke Thompson, who Hargrove said suffered a concussion. Her absence was hardly noticeable, though, because the Shockers got production from their other guards.
Preston made all three of her three-point attempts before the last one; Aundra Stovall hounded SIU point guard Rishonda Napier into a 3 for 18 shooting performance and seven turnovers; Tamara Lee had seven assists and TaQuandra Mike had four steals.
“Everybody on the team can step up when their name is called,” Preston said. “I felt like I did tonight when my name was called, I felt like I stepped up and made baskets that needed to be made. Aundra Stovall was called in to start and told she needed to lock somebody up and she put cuffs on them, she did her job.”
SIU had its own difference-makers. Kylie Giebelhausen overcame aggressive pressure by Mike and Preston to score 21 points, and Kim Nebo had four points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Giebelhausen missed all four of her fourth-quarter free throws but Rangie Bessard, who led WSU with 15 points and 13 rebounds, missed all three of hers. Stovall’s shot at the end was taken from well behind the three-point line as other players failed to get open.
“When it comes down to that, no one likes to go back-and-forth, basket-for-basket,” Mike said. “Or they go on a spree where they score and we don’t. We just have to work on that. We rushed a lot, so that was a lot of what had us in this predicament.
“We just have to calm down when we’re up 10 points, four points, it doesn’t matter. Keep a steady head, move the ball and get an easier shot.”
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Napier 3-18 2-2 10, Nelson 1-1 0-0 2, Nebo 6-9 0-0 12, Hartman 0-0 0-0 0, Giebelhausen 8-14 1-5 21, Bowling 0-1 0-0 0, Claussen 2-3 0-1 4, Martin 2-5 0-0 4, Corrigan 2-6 0-0 4, Hummel 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 26-60 3-8 61.
WICHITA STATE: Stovall 2-7 0-0 5, Lee 2-5 1-2 5, Lozada-Cabbage 3-7 0-0 6, Mike 2-8 1-2 5, Bessard 7-16 1-6 15, Lockhart 0-1 0-0 0, Preston 3-5 0-0 9, Williams 1-3 0-2 2, Tompkins 4-7 2-2 11. Totals 24-59 5-12 58.
Three-point shooting—SIU 6-18 (Giebelhausen 4-5, Napier 2-10, Bowling 0-1, Corrigan 0-2), WSU 5-14 (Preston 3-4, Tompkins 1-1, Stovall 1-2, Mike 0-2, Williams 0-2, Lee 0-3). Rebounds—SIU 41 (Nebo 9), WSU 35 (Bessard 13). Total fouls—SIU 13, WSU 17. Technicals—None. Steals—SIU 5 (Giebelhausen 3), WSU 12 (Mike 4). Assists—SIU 15 (Napier 7), WSU 16 (Lee 7). A—1,624.