TERRE HAUTE — If Racheal Mahan or Marina Laramie had a night, as all basketball players do, where shots weren’t falling or foul trouble presented itself, coach Teri Moren didn’t have another option.
It was Laramie or Mahan or bust in the post last season.
That’s not the case this season.
Newcomer Lashonda Littleton, a 6-foot junior college transfer, was projected as the preseason starter at the big forward spot alongside Mahan at center until a minor knee injury slowed her progress.
Regardless of the starting lineup, Littleton, Laramie and, when eligible in late December, Chelsea Small, will get most of the minutes at power forward, while Mahan, Laramie and Smith share time at center.
“It definitely helps having people,” Laramie said. “There was one point in time last year we had eight people, and it was just me and Racheal in the post. There was a game against Missouri State where me and Racheal both fouled out and there was no one else to go to. Rhagen’s been doing great for us as a freshman, and Lashonda being tall and long and being able to pick off passes.”
It’s a much better situation for the team as no one is forced into passivity due to foul trouble, for example.
“The idea is to not have to play Red [Laramie] and Shonda [Littleton] at that 4-spot and allow Racheal [Mahan], Red and even Rhagen [Smith] to play that 5-spot and split minutes and keep fresh fives out there at all times,” Moren said.
Small will give the Sycamores another big that can shoot from the outside to go with Laramie, who hit a 3-pointer against Indiana on two attempts on Nov. 15. Littleton hit a pair from long range at Stetson.
“She’s a kid that can stretch the defense,” Moren said of Littleton. “She has range. She’s a great defender. Offensively, she finds the right spots, she’s a good passer.”
Littleton plans to help defensively first and foremost.
“It starts with defense first. I use my athleticism to guard the wing and be able to guard in the post as well,” said the Dallas native who played for Chipola College.
Rebounding will be key for the Sycamores’ posts as well. Through four games, it wasn’t at peak performance, with opponents winning that battle by an average of five per game.
“We’re going to have to be disciplined and box out and pursue the ball. I want to win the battle of the boards at the end of the 40 minutes. That means something to us,” Moren said.
Mahan knows she needs to be a reliable force on the low block for the Sycamores to achieve their goals.
“We can’t let the polls and what everybody thinks get to our head,” Mahan said. “We just need to play our game and come in every day and work like we’re the worst team so we can play like the best team.”
Being a year older, Mahan is hoping to be coachable and lead by example.
“I need to step up my game a lot,” Mahan said. “I’m not a freshman or sophomore anymore, I don’t have any more excuses. Coaches get on me, and I need to take the criticism. I’m just thinking of ways I can help the team.”
Laramie was averaging 11 points and 7.3 rebounds through four games. She’s hoping her game continues to progress.
“Just more confident in the shots that you take and the things that you do. You take more risks,” Laramie said. “I think we can be No. 1 [in the MVC], but now being picked to win the league makes people want to beat us that much more.”