CARBONDALE -- The Southern Illinois University women's basketball team knocked off the first place Bradley Braves with a commanding 64-50 win Sunday inside the Banterra Center.
Bradley, who came into Sunday's contest averaging 72.2 points per game and tied with Missouri State for a share of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference, was held to a season-low 50 points. Southern forced the upstart Braves into 19 turnovers, trailed just once and led by as many as 17 points. The Salukis also turned the ball over a season-low eight times and tied a season-high with 16 steals.
"It's nice to get back on the winning track," seventh-year head coach Cindy Stein said. "I was proud of our defensive effort. We came up with big shots when we needed them and offensively we took care of the ball. When we do that good things happen. I'm very proud of our effort today."
Southern's offense clicked from the start, as the Salukis raced out to an 11-2 lead after the first five minutes of play and never trailed after that. SIU led by six, 15-9, at the end of the first and grew its lead to nine, 34-25 at the half. Southern then held Bradley to just 2-of-8 shooting in the third quarter and Makenzie Silvey closed out the period with nine-straight points on three treys, including a corner three as time expired to give the Salukis a 16-point lead at 49-33.
"It was a really big boost because it got the crowd going," Silvey said of her third-quarter run. "It also gave us a lot of momentum and a nice cushion heading into the fourth quarter against the top team in the Valley."
Silvey had a terrific game on both ends of the floor for the Salukis. She finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting and added four boards, three assists and two steals. After Bradley crept to within seven, 40-33, with 4:16 to play in the third, Silvey caught fire from behind the arc, as she drained three-straight three-pointers to push SIU's lead back to double-digits. On the defensive end, she drew the tough task of guarding 2019 MVC Freshman of the Year Lasha Petree and Silvey made her work for every basket. Petree finished with 11 points but needed 12 shots to reach double-digits.
"We always get excited when Makenzie hits some shots because we know that she can put up a lot of points quickly and that was a great example of it," Stein said of Silvey's third quarter run. "So it didn't surprise us but we knew that (Makenzie) had been off a little bit so her finding her stroke today was really important. More importantly, I liked the way she competed defensively. She played extremely hard."
And while Silvey led the way both offensively and defensively in the win, Southern got contributions from throughout its lineup. Abby Brockmeyer scored 10 of her 14 points in the first half and added eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Nicole Martin tallied six points, four rebounds and three steals while Brittney Patrick added nine points, six assists, a career-high six steals and zero turnovers. Gabby Walker chipped in four points and two steals in 14 minutes off the bench.
"I was impressed with the way a lot of our kids played today," Stein said. "Brittney Patrick had a really sound game at point guard, Abby Brockmeyer was outstanding, Gabby Walker and Nicole Martin played great post defense and Makenzie hit some big shots and most importantly, was all over Lasha Petree defensively for most of the game."
Southern's next three games are all against teams in the top-half of the league in Drake (Feb. 7), UNI (Feb. 9) and Missouri State (Feb. 15). So while they will savor Sunday's win against a Bradley team that received votes in the most recent USA Today Coaches Top-25 poll, they know there is more work to do.
"We've already lost once to both UNI and Drake this season and they will be even tougher on the road, especially because they both draw great crowds," Brockmeyer said. "Getting this win against the top team in the Valley is huge and it boosts our confidence rolling into next weekend."
The Salukis travel to Drake on Feb. 7 to take on the Bulldogs at 6 p.m.