News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Given to Fly

February 18, 2007

Given to Fly: Sycamores doing it with more than just offense

Back on Nov. 28, 2006, the Indiana State women’s basketball team allowed a Loyola (Ill.) team to come into Hulman Center, shoot 50.9 percent from the field and score 71 points.

Uninspiring defensive efforts were commonplace back then, but coach Kelvin Sampson of Indiana — referring to a Purdue men’s team that has steadily improved this season — said a team’s true identity is shown in February, not in November.

While the Sycamores surpassed 100 points for the third time of the season in that Loyola win, the defense was awful. Drastic changes were made at halftime of an 89-81 loss to the same Illinois State Redbirds whom Indiana State stifled into 30-percent shooting Sunday at Redbird Arena.

Since that loss to the Rebirds, ISU has held its last seven opponents to a combined 36-percent shooting from the field. Not only do the Sycamores have the best offense in the league, they’ve earned an identity as a defensive stopper.

The turnaround is downright amazing.

“Early in the year we were probably one of the softest teams in the conference,” coach Jim Wiedie said. “I thought we were soft all the way around — soft inside, soft on the perimeter. Mentally soft.

“But I think we’ve matured as the season goes along and you get more comfortable with what you’re doing. You can just see the demeanor start to change. Are we the toughest team in the league physically? No, not yet, but we’re getting a little bit better. Rebounding and defense are a good indicator of that.”

With a young team full of newcomers, Wiedie’s Sycamores are a team that has as good a shot as anyone at a third-place finish in the regular season. A month ago that seemed unlikely, with teams like last-place Missouri State able to win in Hulman Center.

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Given to Fly
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