Dec. 16, 2006
Box Score |
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Junior Nikki Smith scored a career-high 24 points, including the final nine points of the game, as the Indiana women's basketball team defeated Southern Illinois, 73-66, for its fourth win on Branch McCracken Court in Assembly Hall.
A 3-pointer by Nikki Smith with 5:13 left in the game gave the Hoosiers (9-2) a two-point advantage, 60-58, sparking a 16-8 run that kept IU ahead en route to a 73-66 win over the Salukis (3-7).
The Hoosiers opened the game by taking an 18-8 lead in the first five and half minutes as Nikki Smith scored on a jumper and sank a 3-point basket at the 14:33 mark. Southern Illinois answered the Hoosiers' opening streak with 10-4 run, cutting IU's lead to four, 22-18, with 10:10 on the clock. An 8-0 run by the Hoosiers gave IU a 10-point advantage, 30-20, with 8:08 to go in the half. The Salukis outscored Indiana, 17-7, in the final 7:02 of the first half to take a 39-38 lead into the break.
Indiana jumped out of the halftime break on a 7-4 run to regain the lead at 45-43 with 16:26 on the clock. A layup by Jasmine Gibson knotted the game at 45-45, but a 3-pointer from Nikki Smith put IU ahead, 48-45, with 14:13 left. A three-point play by Carrie Smith increased the Hoosier advantage to 51-45 with 13:30 to go in the game. SIU answered with a jumper by Cortney Sales, but a fade-away by Shanice Billington kept the Hoosiers ahead by six, 53-47, with 12:36 on the clock. A 6-0 Saluki run tied the game at 53-53, but a 4-0 IU run sparked by a Billington layup gave IU a 57-53 advantage with 8:23 to go in the game. Back-to-back jumpers by SIU's Erica Smith gave the Salukis a one-point advantage, 58-57, at the seven-minute mark, but a 3-pointer from Nikki Smith with 5:12 to gave the Hoosiers the lead for good.
Southern Illinois out-shot the Hoosiers 47.4 percent (27-of-57) to 46.9 percent (30-of-64) from the field, but the Hoosiers' won the battle of the boards, 38-29.
Nikki Smith sank 7-of-11 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and hit 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Sophomore Whitney Thomas scored 10 points and led the Hoosiers with nine rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
Four scored in double-figures for Southern Illinois, as Carlai Moore led the way with 16 points. Dana Olsen added 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, while Debbie Burris scored 11 points and Jayme Sweere tallied 10 in the effort.
The Hoosiers continue their homestand on Monday, Dec. 18, when they host Ball State. Tipoff against the Cardinals is at 7:05 p.m. in Assembly Hall.
Head Coach Felisha Leggett-Jack
"It was a great team effort. Our team is really forming into something special and we showed today that you can't really say who our go to players are, because any given day someone different can step up. Today Shanice (Billington) really showed why she was Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut and we expect that in every single game from here on out. Nikki (Smith), I tell you what, there's a little stomach bug going around, she has it, I want her to keep it for the rest of the season. She stays poised and focused and she only gave what she can give and that's an outside threat and a couple penetrations. We really believe in the words that we use, and together we will accomplish great things if we stick together."
On the energy of the team in two close games:
"We're always going to celebrate victories. Today was a hard-fought win and Southern Illinois is a fantastic program. We beat a good team tonight, so we are going to enjoy this. Tomorrow at 12 we are going to focus in on Ball State and see what we can do to come up with a game plan for them. We knew going into this season that talent wise, we might be pretty average, but if we stick together and allow our defense to talk for us, we can be a pretty good team, and we know that it's going to be a two-point game throughout the entire season. Our focus is about close games."
On freshman guard Shanice Billington:
"Shanice has been getting better every day in practice and we thought that she was really ready against IPFW, but as a head coach, sometimes you want to hold people back just for a second so that they can get that hunger in their belly. She sat for a long time this season, and she really recognized what we were trying to do here and that it has her name written all over what we are trying to do. She got focused and got in the gym and into the coaches' office watching film. She's becoming a student of the game. We already know she's a great athlete, we already know that she's got great instinct, but can she be a student of the game? We realized that she can and now she's putting the time and energy into that and it results in her ability. You saw a little bit of that tonight, but we haven't even tapped what the real Shanice can do."
Junior guard Nikki Smith
On the two clutch 3-point baskets that she hit in the second half:
"The first 3 in the second half that put us ahead, that was all Whitney (Thomas). She got the steal, and the second 3 was Shanice. She's the one in the break knowing where I was. I have the easy job - I just stand there and shoot it. It's up to my teammates, and they do such a great job of knowing where I'm at, giving me great passes and setting me up, so it's really their 3's."
On finishing with a career-high 24 points:
"I don't really worry about it. To me, they are just numbers, what matters is that we get the win. It doesn't matter if I score zero points or 20, it really doesn't matter. It's so much fun this year, because on any given night, any person on our team can step up."
Freshman guard Shanice Billington
On the quality of her play in the game:
"Coach told me in the second half that she was going to put me in, and I got excited because she had confidence in me, and then I brought that energy out on the floor. It was a great team win and I just had fun out there playing basketball."