TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s women’s basketball is proving to be a team of substance over style, but the Sycamores are 3-0 in Hulman Center after another dominant performance at the defensive end.
ISU coach Teri Moren, whose team was coming off consecutive road losses at Indiana and IUPUI, has no problem with her team grinding out a victory. In other words, Sunday’s 48-34 victory over Belmont may not be the last time ISU wins with in-your-face defense and less-than-outstanding offense. ISU shot 34.9 percent from the field and 12 of 24 from the foul line.
“It wasn’t quite as pretty as we’d liked it, but this is a team that’s going to continue to grind it on the offensive end, but I thought we were steady and came up big on the defensive end,” Moren said.
The Sycamores began the game out of sync offensively, but they imposed their will at the defensive end, holding the Bruins to 4-of-21 shooting and eight points in the first 16 minutes.
And with Anna Munn doing her best Lucas Eitel impression — he hit seven 3-pointers to open Sunday’s men’s/women’s doubleheader — by knocking down her fourth 3-pointer to put her team ahead 20-8. Munn finished one shy of tying the ISU record of seven 3-pointers in a game, but her 19 points helped the Sycamores improve to 3-2 on the season.
The Sycamores might have run away and hid from the Bruins had sophomore post Racheal Mahan not been off her game. Mahan had shot over 50 percent through four games but missed her first six shots from the field and a pair of free throws.
“Anna got us going early, but we still need Racheal [Mahan] and Taylor had a pretty good floor game. We need her to get us to double digits to extend our lead a little bit,” Moren said.
The Sycamores found Munn for two more 3-pointers in the second half, and relied on freshman Marina Laramie in the post when Mahan picked up her fourth foul three minutes after halftime.
Laramie scored on her first touch upon entering the game to put ISU ahead 30-15. The 6-foot-2 center finished with 13 points and tied with Jessica Valley for team-high honors with seven rebounds.
“The guards did a great job of getting me the ball. I really had no choice, it was time to step up and have my team’s back. The coaches did a great job of preparing me for it,” Laramie said.
Laramie’s season-best production didn’t come out of nowhere; she’s now fourth on the team at seven points per game while playing just 16 minutes per game. Laramie could carve herself out a larger role as the season progresses, Moren said, giving ISU a strong 1-2 punch in the paint.
“Racheal is quick enough to play a lot of the 4s we’re going to have to face. One thing we need Racheal to do is score, and tonight she had an uncharacteristic night. She’s been so good. She’s been so good in every game we’ve played so far,” Moren said. “She had just one of those nights. We’ve all been there. She’ll bounce back.”
Whitley had just seven points, but her 3-point play on a bank shot with 8:08 to go kept Belmont’s deficit at 14 points. Mahan re-entered near the six-minute mark to score a couple shots that kept ISU’s lead at 14.
The work-in-progress Sycamores got the job done. ISU had just nine turnovers the final 35 minutes of the game after the sloppy start.
Natasha Zurek started in place of Jessica Valley after Valley had missed practice the past two days due to an illness. Zurek had four assists and sparked the defense with two steals in the first half.
“The thing I appreciate about Tasha is having another ball-handler in there,” Moren said. “We have two point guards essentially that can get us into any offense we need to get into. On top of that, she makes things happen defensively. She gambles a little bit, but she always seems to gamble at the right time or right opportunity to come up with a deflection or a steal.”
With the effort the Sycamores give on defense and talent on offense, Laramie sees plenty of improvement and victories ahead for this team.
“We’re getting better every single practice, just trusting each other and knowing that someone’s going to be there to have your help. Or you get caught in a screen, your teammates are going to be there for you. I just think the more trust we build the better we can get,” Laramie said.
BELMONT (34) — Coleman 5-8 3-6 13, Visbeen 1-4 0-0 2, Tarrence 0-4 2-2 2, Brooks 5-15 0-0 10, Joubran 1-2 3-3 5, Downs 0-3 0-0 0, Ernst 0-4 0-0 0, Vaught 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 13-49 FG, 8-11 FT, 34 TP.
INDIANA STATE (48) — Mahan 2-9 1-4 5, Zurek 1-1 0-1 2, Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Whitley 2-7 3-7 7, Munn 6-13 1-2 19, Laramie 3-7 7-10 13, Valley 1-3 0-0 2, Rademacher 0-0 0-0 0, Franklin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-43 FG, 12-24 FT, 48 TP.
Halftime score — ISU 27, Belmont 13. 3-point shooting — Belmont 0-10 (Visbeen 0-1, Carroll 0-2, Downs 0-1, Ernst 0-3, Vaught 0-3), ISU 6-12 (Munn 6-11, Valley 0-1). Assists — Belmont 9 (Carroll 2, Brooks 2, Coleman 2), ISU 11 (Zurek 4, Munn 4, Valley, Rademacher, Franklin). Turnovers — Belmont 16, ISU 15. Steals — Belmont 7 (Coleman 4), ISU 10 (Whitley 3, Zurek 2, Munn 2, Johnson, Valley 1, Franklin 1). Total fouls — Belmont 19, ISU 19. Fouled out — Mahan.
Next — Indiana State (3-2) plays at 8 p.m. Thursday at St. Louis University. Belmont (2-4) plays host to IUPUI on Thursday.