News From Terre Haute, Indiana

College

February 15, 2014

Indiana State women turn up defense to shut down Salukis

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State showed its loyal women’s basketball fan base some love for Valentine’s Day.

The Sycamores delivered a victory to a crowd of 2,392 that arrived despite the latest snow storm to support the team Friday in Hulman Center. ISU defeated Southern Illinois by a score of 72-35 for its largest margin of victory this season.

In addition to a two-game losing streak, the Sycamores were sparked by a meeting with breast cancer survivors prior to the game.

“Really good team win on a very special night that is our pink game,” coach Teri Moren said. “It’s kind of neat to have the survivors in our pregame discussion. That was special for our players. The only thing I asked our players to do was to give them a special night of entertainment, and I thought our kids did that at both ends tonight.”

The Sycamores’ defense was at its best against the last-place Salukis, holding SIU to 12 field goals, tying a season low for an ISU opponent this season. South Alabama had 12 back in November. ISU also came up with 17 steals on the night, forcing 27 Saluki turnovers.

“They were all active and talking and moving together,” Moren said. “They just looked connected. Other than the Missouri State game, I think we put together a sound 40 minutes of good defense tonight. I’m just excited they looked so connected and together tonight.”

While the Salukis (4-19, 2-10) are the last-place team in the Missouri Valley Conference, it was a relief to dominate any opponent on the heels of consecutive losses to inferior opponents.

“We needed this. I think the staff needed it, the players needed it,” Moren said.

Individual players got performances they needed as well. Junior transfer Jasmine Grier had a season-high nine points to go with eight rebounds and a steal. Grier’s first 3-pointer of the night came off an excellent drive-and-kick pass from Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir that put ISU ahead 12-9 just past the 15-minute mark of the first half.

Grier’s 3-pointer started a 21-2 run over a 10 1/2 minute span, knocking down a second 3-pointer during that same extended spurt by the Sycamores. It’s a big confidence builder for a  player who’s struggled to find her shot in games in her first year with ISU (13-9, 8-3 MVC).

“Jasmine is just becoming more comfortable in the lineup. She’s just becoming more comfortable with who she is as a player and how she can contribute and what she can give this team. As she continues to get more comfortable and stretches out the d, and we get Munn back, then we have a lot more scoring power on the perimeter than we had when Jas was still trying to figure things out.”

Grier is seeing how important she is in the team’s ability to improve going forward.

“Defensive-wise I just have to be a spark,” Grier said. “I know the coaches tend to tell me that a lot, just try to be a spark. As a whole, I think we did great.  I just felt like I had to come in and fill a role and do the best that I could. I just want to be a spark on the offensive end too.”

Grier was one of many reasons the Sycamores’ offense was on point. Abdul-Qaadir was pushing the pace on her way to nine points and four assist. The point guard made sure ISU finished the first half with authority, taking the ball down the lane and converting an acrobatic layup to put the Sycamores up 18.

ISU’s ability to get the ball inside was a big key. The Sycamores had 26 points in the paint on their way to a 35-17 halftime lead. Marina Laramie and Racheal Mahan combined for 10 of ISU’s first 21 points.

Laramie finished with a team-high 11 points to go with seven rebounds and a blocked shots.

“We’ve been doing that a lot on practice, just getting it into our posts. The guards did a great job looking for us and getting it to us. That was a big part of the game tonight,” Laramie said.

Mahan scored all six of her points in the first half, giving way to freshman Rhagen Smith for most of the second half. Smith, who had a bucket in the lane during ISU’s big first-half run, finished with a career-high eight points, chipping in a pair of blocked shots.

“Rhagen’s a pretty confident kid. A lot of that has to do with she’s just a hard worker. She’s able to reap the benefits. She’s a kid going down the stretch in February, that I can see us using more.”

Kalliste Haskins converted the first 3-pointer of her career for ISU, who also had 18 assists on the night.

“That says a little bit about the unselfishness of this group,” Moren said. “They all want each other to score. It was fitting at the end of the second half that Kalliste got a 3-pointer on an assist from Kasey Johnson. We took good shots.”

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