Strength in Paint Leads to 70-66 Win over Southern Illinois

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Strength in Paint Leads to 70-66 Win over Southern Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill.Career-high point totals from forwards Chukwuka Ezeigbo and Veronica Ruiz helped Marshall earn a 70-66 win against Southern Illinois on Saturday afternoon in the SIU Arena.

Marshall improved to 5-4 for the season and recorded its first road victory of the year. The Salukis dropped to 1-7 with the loss.

“It’s hard to get them on the road,” said head coach Matt Daniel. “You could tell that against a team (SIU) that just got its first home win the other night. You could hear and see the things they were talking about – we’ve been here before, we can fight back – that’s the way they played for the last three minutes of the ball game.”

Ezeigbo and Ruiz each finished the contest with 17 points, marking a career-high for both players. Ezeigbo went 5-for-12 in the field and was 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Ruiz went 6-of-11 from the field and was 5-of-6 from the free throw stripe.

“We are just going to go play and then try and figure out how to take advantage of them as the game goes,” continued Daniel. “That can change from game to game, but I thought those two (Ruiz and Ezeigbo) did a good job. I’m really happy for Chika on her birthday to be able to get a road win.”

On the boards, Marshall recorded 44 rebounds, compared to SIU’s 30. The Herd has yet to lose a game this season when controlling the rebounding margin. Twenty of the rebounds came off the offensive board and the Marshall combined for 21 second chance points.

Three different players finished with eight rebounds including guard Norrisha Victrum and forwards, Ruiz and Leandra King.

SIU struggled to contain Marshall’s post game as the Herd totaled its most points in the paint for the season with 34.

On defense, Marshall totaled 11 steals and forced 16 Saluki turnovers. The Herd was able to turn the SIU mistakes into 25 points off turnovers.

“We out-rebounded them, we got to the free throw line more, and we turned it over less,” Daniel noted. “If you do those things, you have a shot to win games. That’s where we were at today.”

A strong post presence by Ezeigbo helped Marshall jump to a 17-12 lead after eight minutes of play. She was able to draw two fouls and go 3-of-4 from the free throw line, totaling nine points during the span.

Eighteen points in the paint helped Marshall go on a 17-3 run to push to the lead to 30-15 with seven minutes left in the opening period.

SIU’ s Rishonda Napier and Cartaesha Macklin then scored on six consecutive possessions, allowing the Salukis to respond with a 13-1 run to trim the Marshall lead to 31-28 with three minutes left in the half. Napier would finish the game with a career-high 20 points.

Ruiz stopped the four minute scoring drought with two made free throws at the two-minute mark and the Herd went into the locker room at halftime with a 35-28 advantage.

Marshall went 10-of-13 from the free throw line in the half and combined for a plus-four rebounding margin (23-19). Forcing seven Saluki turnovers led to 14 points off turnovers.

Ezeigbo totaled 11 first half points, while Victrum earned six rebounds from the point guard position.

Weaver extended the Marshall lead to 38-28 in the first two minutes of the second half with a three-pointer from the top of the key. She would finish the game with nine points.

In the first five minutes alone, the Herd earned eight offensive boards and pushed the lead to 44-37.

SIU was able to pull the game within six with 6:30 left in the game, but Ruiz scored on two consecutive possessions to hold off the Salukis.

A three-point heave from Napier put the Salukis with their smallest deficit since the first half at 70-66, but a steal by Ruiz in the final seconds protected the Marshall win.

The Herd never trailed in the second half and finished the period with 12 points from the free throw line and a plus-10 rebound margin (21-11).

Marshall will return home for the next three games, beginning with a 2 p.m. ET contest against Ohio on Saturday, Dec. 15.

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