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March 14, 2013

ISU women expect to contend for MVC basketball tourney title

Northern Iowa provides opposition Friday

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s women’s basketball team hasn’t been overwhelmed more than once or twice by an opponent all season, losing just twice by more than 15 points.

It would be understandably concerning for Sycamore fans that one of the teams to do so was the Northern Iowa Panthers, Friday’s quarterfinals opponent in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, nicknamed “Chuck Madness.” The Sycamores and Panthers will tip off at 3:30 p.m. in The Family Arena.

Coach Tanya Warren’s squad, led by likely Jackie Stiles Award winner Jacqui Kalin, imposed its will on ISU just last weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

The Sycamores, who have held MVC opponents to 39.2 percent shooting, have allowed the Panthers to average 49.5 percent in being swept in the season series.

Kalin, who scores 20.6 ppg, averaged 25 against the Sycamores.

Reversing the Panther-inflicted pains will begin with slowing down the sixth-year senior guard who has fought back from two ACL tears.

“I just have to be more aggressive as far as letting her catch the ball,” ISU sophomore Travecia Franklin said. “We’ll try to not allow them to just throw her the ball whenever, limit her touches on the ball.”

ISU was doing a decent job in the first 15 minutes of the action last weekend, building a nine-point lead as halftime neared.

“We had all our momentum going in the first half. We were up nine, gave up two Kalin 3-pointers and gave up a drive and sent them into halftime with a lot of momentum,” Moren said.

ISU avoided what would have been the first three-game losing streak of the season, fighting off a scrappy Bradley team on Saturday to earn a rematch with the Panthers, who outscored the Sycamores 49-22 in the final 20 minutes.

“The feeling after was we ripped up the stat sheet, that wasn’t us,” Moren said. “This team has played with great heart, great character, unified defense. All of those things that have made this team unique, we didn’t have. It was kind of a turning point for us.”

Resilience has been a part of this team’s character. Not letting the worst half of basketball all season linger in the minds of her teammates, ISU senior Taylor Whitley took charge.

“The next day, we’re in our prep, Taylor’s the first one to speak up. She said ‘coach, if we it had our way, we would play right now.’ We went to practice and they were terrific. You could tell they were ready to make it right.”

Added Whitley, “I think it definitely showed our character, after that tough loss. We have that [loss] in the back of our heads going into Friday. What I love about our defense is that we’re all connected, that’s why we’re so successful with it.”

Franklin, Natasha Zurek and Kasey Johnson will play key roles in ISU’s potential success this weekend, whether it means helping guard Kalin or stepping up offensively.

“We just have to stay aggressive as far as our team defense and the things they taught us in the beginning, not forgetting what got us to where we’re at,” Franklin added.

Franklin, Zurek and Johnson could also come up big offensively as the Panthers are among the teams who will dare those players to shoot by sagging onto ISU’s post players Racheal Mahan and Marina Laramie.

“They all have to be willing to shoot open jumepers,” Moren said.

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