TERRE HAUTE —
What’s a surefire way of knowing a team has the right defensive intensity?
When it shoots 5 of 24 from the field in the second half and has increased its lead by a point since halftime.
At the eight-minute mark of the second half, that’s exactly what the Indiana State women’s basketball team had done. And while the shooting wasn’t always pretty, the defense was, and the Sycamores rode it to a 55-49 victory over Marshall at Hulman Center on Monday.
ISU is 2-0 and in both of its wins — it beat Eastern Illinois 69-39 Friday — defense has been the cornerstone. Eastern Illinois shot 26.9 percent on Friday. Marshall did better at 41.3 percent, but had so few shots (46) the percentage hardly mattered.
“We talked about being the hunter at shootaround. We want to pursue something that’s special, that other teams dream of doing. For us, that’s about getting down-and-dirty, it’s about getting on the floor, it’s about 50-50 balls, making sure we’re boxing out. Just gutsy play,” ISU coach Teri Moren said.
ISU ultimately shot 34.4 percent from the field, due in large part to the scoring of post player Racheal Mahan and wing Anna Munn.
Mahan was impressive as she set career highs with 18 points and 12 rebounds. It was Mahan’s second double-double in as many games for the Sycamores. ISU had 17 assists on 21 made field goals and the Sycamores’ ability to find Mahan for good scoring chances in the paint played a large part.
“I can’t do anything without them. They see me, I see them. In order for me to score, I need passes or I need to rebound. I do a good rebounding … they do a good job seeing me,” Mahan said.
Munn scored 14 points and was ISU’s primary outside threat as she converted 4 of 12 from 3-point range.
It was her swagger than impressed Marshall coach Matt Daniel.
“They had a kid, No. 33, her name escapes me [Munn], but in the first half she got hot and she told one of our kids to ‘get off my leather’ or something like that. While I don’t appreciate what she said, I think her passion ran through their team. I like her fire,” Daniel said.
A somewhat sheepish Munn admitted that she let her emotions overtake her … and that she was misquoted.
“I usually don’t let my emotions get the best of me, but they were all up in us and we were having some trouble getting off screens. I took a shot, hit it and said, ‘get on my level.’ I don’t know what got into me,” Munn said.
Mahan thought that Munn had nothing to apologize for and that her intensity and swagger was welcome.
“I thought it was a good thing because it showed she has a lot of heart. She was in the game, she was hyped and she was ready to win,” Mahan said.
The Sycamores had both barrels open on both ends of the court to start the game. Good ball movement and good finishing in the paint helped ISU take a 12-5 lead. Marshall started the game 2 of 9 from the field.
ISU let its guard down briefly in the middle of the half and the Thundering Herd cut their deficit to 16-15.
It was still a one-point advantage for ISU at the 6:24 mark when the Sycamores’ defense began to frustrate Marshall. The Thundering Herd had a stretch where it committed six turnovers in eight trips down the floor – including five possessions in a row. ISU had steals on four of the turnovers.
Not coincidentally, ISU put together an 11-0 run to build a double-digit lead. As it did in the first five minutes of the game, the Sycamores moved the ball well and created good shots. ISU led by ten at the break.
ISU shot 52 percent in the first half. The second half was more of a slog as the Sycamores missed their first nine shots, but the defensive intensity didn’t let up.
“We want our identity to be on the defensive end. We want to defend you and we want to rebound the ball [ISU had a 38-36 edge],” Moren said.
ISU’s lead peaked at 16 with 3:42 left. Marshall cut the lead down to single digits in the final minute, but ran out of time to pose a serious threat.
ISU next plays at Indiana on Friday.
MARSHALL (49) — Williams 0-3 0-0 0, Ezeigbo 6-9 0-0 12, Dickens 2-5 1-2 6, Shaw 2-8 0-2 5, Victrum 2-5 2-2 7, Ramirez 0-1 0-0 0, Weaver 3-6 0-0 9, Woods 2-6 0-0 4, King 1-1 2-4 4, Ruiz 0-0 0-0 0, S.Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Boerger 0-0 0-0 0. 19-46 FG, 5-11 FT, 49 TP.
INDIANA STATE (55) — Mahan 8-16 2-3 18, Valley 0-4 1-2 1, K.Johnson 2-10 1-2 7, Whitley 2-7 2-3 6, Munn 5-16 0-0 14, Zurek 0-0 1-3 1, Laramie 3-7 0-2 6, Franklin 1-1 0-0 2. 21-61 FG, 7-15 FT, 55 TP.
Halftime score — ISU 33-23. 3-point goals — MU 6-18 (Weaver 3-6, Shaw 1-4, Victrum 1-4, Woods 0-2, Dickens 1-1), ISU 6-19 (Munn 4-12, K.Johnson 2-6, Valley 0-1). Rebounds — MU 36 (Ezeigbo 8, Woods 7, Williams 5), ISU 38 (Mahan 12, Team 7, Laramie 5, Whitley 4, Franklin 3, Valley 2, K.Johnson, Zurek), Assists — MU 10 (Victrum 3), ISU 17 (Whitley 6, Mahan 3, K.Johnson 3, Franklin 2, Valley, Munn, Zurek), Steals — MU 6 (Shaw 3), ISU 12 (Whitley 4, K.Johnson 2, Laramie 2, Mahan, Valley, Munn, Franklin). Blocks — MU 8 (Ezeigbo 7), ISU 12 (Whitley 4, K.Johnson 2, Laramie 2, Mahan, Valley, Munn, Franklin). Turnovers — MU 17 (Williams 3, Shaw 3), ISU 11 (Mahan 4, Whitley 2, Franklin 2, K.Johnson, Zurek, Team). Total fouls – MU 17, ISU 13. A — 2,141.
Next — ISU (2-0) plays at Indiana on Friday. Marshall (1-1) plays host to Ball State on Saturday.