TERRE HAUTE — A rivalry is re-born.
Indiana State and Evansville’s women’s basketball games haven’t been very competitive in recent seasons. The Sycamores have held sway, winning six in a row in the series and five in a row at Hulman Center.
That changed on Saturday.
“Indiana State is only two hours up the road. We compete in recruiting and we compete on the court,” Evansville coach Oties Epps. “In order for this to be a true rivalry, we have to win in their gym. We’ve done that.”
A much-improved Evansville team used a late 7-0 run and held on in face of an ISU comeback as the Sycamores couldn’t get over the top in a 55-54 loss.
Anna Munn led all scorers with 16 points in a game where defense dominated. Khristian Hart led Evansville with 11.
The battle of the teams’ post players – ISU’s Racheal Mahan and Evansville’s Mallory Ladd – ended more or less in a draw, mostly due to foul trouble for both. Mahan had 12 points (on 4 of 14 shooting) and eight rebounds. Ladd had 10 points (3 of 4 from field) and four rebounds.
A tightly-controlled game left a sour taste in ISU coach Teri Moren’s mouth. There were several calls – an allowed 3-pointer by Hart at 3:04 just after an official’s whistle and a pivotal late illegal screen by Jessica Valley with 16.7 seconds left – that were cause for consternation on the ISU bench.
“This game was controlled from the beginning – not by the players. Two of Evansville’s best players and two out of our best players weren’t playing the game,” Moren said. “I kind of feel like Racheal and Ladd might have cancelled each other, but the game would’ve been much more fun to watch had they been in.”
But Moren also acknowledged that it wasn’t the officiating that cost ISU the game. ISU had ample opportunities to reverse the outcome, but never build its gaps and couldn’t get the timely defensive stop or shot to fall that would’ve made the difference.
“I liked the looks we got. Racheal’s shots were high-percentage shots. We just couldn’t put them away. We were maybe one defensive play, or offensive play or free throw away from putting them away. We just didn’t,” Moren said.
The woulda, coulda examples of when ISU could have put Evansville on its heels were plentiful.
ISU led for most of the first half, but could never get its lead past four points. The Sycamores’ 1 of 5 first half free throw shooting assisted the Aces greatly.
ISU led by six early in the second half, but couldn’t build on the lead. Instead, Evansville fought back and never stopped fighting.
The Purple Aces scored on eight straight possessions from that point – including four of its six second-half three-pointers -- to take a 43-39 lead. ISU would fight back to tie the score, and from that point, it was a coin flip as to which team would have the gumption to pull it out.
That the team didn’t end up being ISU stung for the Sycamores in a big way.
“It’s very unfortunate. I think we did everything we could at the time,” Mahan said.
An Evansville 7-0 run put the Aces in control with a 52-45 lead with 5:10 left in the game. But ISU began to feed Mahan in the post and the Sycamores began to turn the game in their favor.
Mahan scored the next nine points for ISU – the only interruption in her outburst being the controversial 3-pointer by Hart at 3:01 – and the Sycamores had cut their deficit to 55-54 with 1:08 left.
Neither team would score in the final minute, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunities.
Evansville’s Samantha Heck missed with at :41 and Mahan couldn’t convert at :27. ISU then gave itself a chance by twice tying up Ladd, gaining possession with 19.8 left.
But Valley was called for an illegal screen with 16.7 left as ISU’s attempt to win the game on the last possession ended before it could get started.
Still, ISU wasn’t dead. Evansville’s Juliann Miller missed a free throw with 10.3 seconds left. ISU crossed half-court, but ISU’s Kasey Johnson picked up her dribble near the timeline and tried to pass it into the middle.
Miller redeemed her free throw miss by jumping the passing lane and got a decisive steal with :02 left. ISU had a timeout to use.
“If we would have been on our toes a little bit more than we were. I take responsibility. Maybe we could have got a timeout with six seconds to go,” Moren said.
The loss dropped ISU to 3-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Evansville – which entered MVC play at 2-9 – improved to 4-1 in the MVC. Ladd, a Valparaiso transfer, became eligible prior to MVC play and has made a world of difference for the Aces.
“This is a huge rivalry for us. It’s going to continue to grow because Teri’s done such a great job. [ISU] is so much better than they were last year. She’s done a great job, it’s going to continue to grow and we’re going to step up,” Epps said.
ISU’s players weren’t honed into a rivalry so much as they were on improving their own play. ISU next plays at Illinois State on Friday.
“They could be a rival school, but a loss is a loss. We take it in stride, learn from it and move on,” Munn said.
EVANSVILLE (55) – Ware 1-5 0-0 2, Ladd 3-4 4-4 10, Heck 3-7 3-4 9, Hart 4-9 0-0 11, Taylor 1-3 0-0 2, Falkenstein 2-6 2-4 8, Friday 2-4 0-0 6, Miller 2-4 2-3 7. 18-42 FG, 11-15 FT, 55 TP.
INDIANA STATE (54) – Mahan 4-14 4-6 12, Valley 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 3-6 0-1 7, Whitley 2-9 0-0 5, Munn 6-13 0-0 16, Zurek 0-1 0-0 0, Laramie 4-9 0-1 8, Franklin 1-4 2-5 4. 21-57 FG, 6-13 FT, 54 TP.
Halftime score – ISU 25-23. 3-point goals – UE 8-19 (Hart 3-5, Falkenstein 2-4, Friday 2-4, Miller 1-2, Taylor 0-2, Ware 0-1, Ladd 0-1), ISU 6-13 (Munn 4-9, Whitley 1-3, Johnson 1-1). Rebounds – UE 35 (Falkenstein 9, Heck 8, Ware 4, Ladd 4, Hart 4, Miller 3, Taylor 2, Team), ISU 32 (Mahan 8, Valley 8, Munn 7, Laramie 5, Team 2, Johnson, Whitley), Assists – UE 9 (Miller 4, Ware, Heck, Hart, Taylor, Friday), ISU 15 (Johnson 4, Munn 4, Valley 2, Zurek 2, Mahan, Whitley, Franklin), Steals – UE 3 (Heck, Hart, Miller), ISU 6 (Munn 2, Mahan, Valley, Johnson, Whitley), Blocks – UE 2 (Heck 2), ISU 2 (Mahan, Laramie), Turnovers – UE 19 (Ladd 6, Heck 4, Taylor 4, Falkenstein 3, Ware, Hart), ISU 10 (Valley 3, Johnson 2, Mahan, Whitley, Munn, Laramie, Franklin), Total fouls – UE 20, ISU 17. Fouled out – Valley. A – 2627.
Next – ISU (11-6, 3-3) plays at Illinois State and Evansville (6-10, 4-1) plays host to Missouri State on Friday.