TERRE HAUTE —
In the last two games for the Indiana State women’s basketball team, both victories, sophomore forward Racheal Mahan has posted combined totals of 35 points and 23 rebounds.
So it’s not hard to understand why she can’t wait to get back on the court tonight when the 5-2 Sycamores, owners of a three-game winning streak, welcome Horizon League member Illinois-Chicago (1-5) to Hulman Center for a 7:05 tipoff.
In ISU’s 58-52 triumph over Northern Illinois on Tuesday, the 6-foot-1 Mahan accumulated 17 rebounds and 12 points to complement the 18-point, seven-steal effort of senior point guard Taylor Whitley.
After practice Thursday, Mahan admitted that she’s been playing well, but so has the entire team ever since a 71-67 loss at IUPUI on Nov. 20.
“I think we’ve been playing really good defense and I’ve been playing really good defense,” she told the Tribune-Star. “I’ve been rebounding like I’m supposed to do. They want me to score, so I score when I’m supposed to.”
Mahan mentioned that “there’s always a lot of room for improvement,” so she’s not completely satisfied.
“But I feel like this team, we play well together,” she added. “We know we shouldn’t have lost against IUPUI.”
“Racheal’s been fairly consistent,” ISU women’s coach Teri Moren assessed. “I think she’s had one or two nights when it was difficult for her to find her shot. But the thing we can count on Racheal for is she’s always going to defend. As we saw the other night against a very good Northern Illinois team, she’s a terrific rebounder.”
Turning her attention to the team as a whole, Moren continued singing words of praise.
“Their effort has been tremendous every night,” she said. “That’s one of the things I think our fans are appreciating — just how hard we’re playing. At times, it hasn’t been pretty offensively. But we’ve really relied on our defense and our ability to rebound the ball and get to the loose balls. … That’s what this group has been about. They’ve been very selfless.”
Last December, the Sycamores traveled to Chicago to play this game and won 75-59 behind 13-for-22 shooting from 3-point range. Deja Mattox and Anna Munn paced ISU with 20 and 19 points respectively.
“We shot it well at their place and got out of there with a win,” Moren recalled. “But it’s always nice to be at home in front of our fans in Hulman Center.”
Despite Illinois-Chicago’s current record, Moren warned that the Flames won’t be blown out easily.
“They’re the best 1-5 team that I’ve seen on film,” she emphasized. “They’ve got a lot of different weapons. [Junior guard] Rachel Story is a transfer from Louisville. She was a part of their Sweet Sixteen team, so she knows what winning’s about. She’s a dynamic point guard who can score in every way possible — off the bounce, she can shoot it from the outside. She’s going to be a challenge for us.
“They also have a lot of good pieces around her, especially on the outside with [guard Emily] Kobel and [guard Taylor] Foulks. Then they’ve got a tremendous post player in [junior Katie] Hannemann who is probably one of the best post players we will have faced this year. She’s really talented in a lot of ways. She’s right-handed but loves to go left. She does a tremendous job on the boards.
“This is a team that is not deep, much like us, but they’ve got some special pieces for sure.”
Another probable starter for Illinois-Chicago is 6-1 senior forward Heidi Dahnke, a former Martinsville (Ill.) High School standout. She is the Flames’ second-leading rebounder, averaging 6.7 boards per contest.