McMakin shows mettle in home opener

The Billikens women’s basketball team had their first home game of the regular season last Friday, hosting the Cougars from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The Billikens utilized their home court advantage, doubling the Cougars’ score by the end of the first quarter, 32-14. The Billikens led the game from start to finish, not trailing or even being tied with the Cougars after graduate shooting guard Camreé Clegg buried a three off the first of sophomore point guard Kennedy Calhoun’s career-high fourteen assists. Calhoun transferred to SLU from Longwood University alongside senior wing Kyla McMakin, freshman guard Isabel Tillet and junior forward Briana Johns this offseason, following their coach Rebecca Tillet’s move from the Lancers. Friday was Tillet’s first  win as head coach of the Billikens, showing that there may be some merit to her new starting lineup that has relegated last year’s starting guard Marissa Warren to the bench. Warren started 17 of her 18 games played last season and played almost 31 minutes per contest. Now coming off the bench behind Calhoun and Clegg, Warren’s shooting efficiency is at a career high and could lead to her being a great leader for the Bills’ second unit. 

McMakin came to SLU to be their first offensive option and proved that she has what it takes to carry that burden on Friday. The 6’0” wing is currently averaging over 20 points per game on a stellar 47.1% from three-point range. Her overall efficiency leaves some to be desired, as she is shooting 39.2% from the field, below the desired average for the first option of a heliocentric offense such as the one the Bills have showcased thus far. Considering that her three point shooting efficiency has increased greatly from last season, going from an at-par 34% to 47%, there is reason to be optimistic about McMakin potentially improving her efficiency.

McMakin is Tillet’s first offensive option, but is not the only important player in the primary lineup. McMakin starts at the 3, alongside a backcourt of Calhoun and Clegg at the 1 and  2 guard, respectively, leading the frontcourt with Johns at the 4 and Senior Brooke Flowers as the woman in the middle. Calhoun ranks 8th in the NCAA in assists per game with 8.3, a full 2.0 assists ahead of the A-10 runner up, Duquesne’s Megan McConnell. Brooke Flowers is the only Billiken averaging a double-double, contributing 11 points and 10 rebounds each night alongside 3.7 blocks, the 7th most in the nation. Flowers’ shot blocking almost doubles the second best rim protector in the conference, St. Bonaventure’s I’yanna Lops who swats away two per game. Tillet’s sixth woman thus far appears to be 5’11” senior Julia Martinez who swiped a career-high 7 steals in 17 minutes of action against SIUE. Also contributing off the bench with Martinez and Warren are Junior forward Peyton Kennedy and Zeynep Sevval Gul, a junior center with international experience on Turkey’s U20 national team as well as with Fenerbahce. 

The Billikens will host again this Friday, November 18th, against the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay Phoenix. UWGB is .500 on the season so far, meanwhile, following their blowout loss to Missouri St on Tuesday the Billikens are 1-3. Tillet needs this home win in order to show that the changes she is making are more than just good in theory, and can actually translate to the success she reached in her time heading the Lancers.