TERRE HAUTE —
With four nonconference games in the next 10 days, the Indiana State women’s basketball team has an identity crisis to solve prior to the Missouri Valley Conference season.
The Sycamores (3-4) are not the same team that held 10 different opponents under 50 points a year ago. Opponents are shooting 43.4 percent and outrebounding ISU by more than four per game.
Offensively, the Sycamores are shooting just 62.8 percent at the free-throw line, making getting there 28 times per game disadvantageous. Racheal Mahan is hitting a career-worst 47.4 percent and has attempted only three fewer foul shots than team leader Anna Munn.
The Sycamores head into today’s game at East Tennessee State hoping it’s the start of a turnaround.
“We’ve had a couple heart-to-heart talks as a team,” Munn said. “We’re still in the process of figuring things out. The Eiffel Tower wasn’t built in a day so we’re just going to take it step by step and turn it around for the next game first.”
The Sycamores will have Kansas State transfer Stephanie Wittman and former junior college standout Chelsea Small available for the first time.
“Stephanie’s an attacker, so that’ll be good,” said point guard Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, the Sycamores newcomer to the starting lineup this season. “She can help us push that pace in trandition. We’re just trying to communicate better as a team, come together. We’re going to find it.
“As a team, we need to find that mesh. It’s early in the season, and we’re not in panic mode.”
Munn is confident things will begin to click for the Sycamores.
“Having those two brings a new dimension to our team. They’re great, athletic players and getting reps in practice is the best thing for them,” Munn said.
Adding two more newcomers to the mix along with new players Lashonda Littleton and Jasmine Grier will also provide another challenge for the coaching staff to get the right combinations on the floor.
“Now, you throw Steph and Chelsea into the mix,” Moren said. “They’re both talented. It makes our job a little more difficult.”
The two new players could provide a spark that ISU needs as the coaches haven’t seen the growth in games this season.
“We kind of knew there were going to be some challenges and some bumps in the road. Any times you put in the new pieces like we have, there’s going to be a transition. We just hope to be playing our best basketball by the end of conference season,” Moren said. “What’s perplexing to us as a staff is you want to see growth from each game. We haven’t seen the growth.
“That’s where we’re sputtering. We’re not making incremental growth in each game. That’s where we’ve had to really evaluate how we’re playing defensively, how we’re teaching defensively, how we’re playing offensively, how we’re teaching defensively.”
Tonight’s game against ETSU — two of the Bucs’ losses are to Kentucky and Vanderbilt — will be another hard-nosed team. The Sycamores are certainly hoping to fight for a win on the road and gain some momentum heading into a battle with in-state rival Butler on Saturday at home.
“There’s a lot of urgency. We’ve had a couple good practices and come together as a team. It’s been eye-opening. We have to fight for everything,” Munn said.
ISU at East Tennessee State
Tipoff — 5 p.m. at Brooks Gym.
Broadcasts — TV: None. Radio: WPRS-AM 1440.
Last time out — Indiana State is coming off a 68-64 home loss to IUPUI.
Series — The Bucs lead the series 1-0.
Next games — ISU will visit Northern Iowa on Thursday. Wichta State will conclude its regular-season on Saturday at Missouri State.
-- Craig Pearson