TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State went 7-2 in the first half of the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball season — coach Teri Moren’s best mark at that point in her four years with the Sycamores — but the loss at Loyola on Sunday left a bad taste with Moren and her coaching staff.
“We were so poor from start to finish at Loyola, there’s only one way that this team can go and that’s up,” Moren said after Thursday’s practice.
The Sycamores will need to elevate their play tonight at Illinois State without senior captain Anna Munn, who is batting what should be a short-term knee injury. ISU was able to beat the Redbirds in Hulman Center 47-44 when Munn sat due to a shoulder injury.
Kasey Johnson will start in Munn’s place, providing defensive stability in the backcourt, but the Sycamores could use some added offensive production from other sources.
Moren wasn’t sure if Lashonda Littleton would start for the third straight game at the small forward position, leaving Jasmine Grier, Natasha Zurek or even 6-foot-1 forward Chelsea Small as options. Small is coming off a 12-point, 11-rebound, three-block performance at Loyola.
“It’s going to be by committee. We’re going to have to rely on our post play on the inside, Chelsea can stretch out the defense on the outside and [Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir] Qisy’s going to have to have a big night,” Moren said. “We have help. Qisy’s going to have to come ready to produce, so is Jasmine Grier, so is Zurek.”
Small averaged 11 points last weekend, has eight 3-pointers in 12 games of action and leads the team in blocked shots after blocking four last weekend.
“As far as the year’s went on, I’ve just been getting more comfortable, more confident,” Small said. “When our chemistry’s good, that gives me confidence and I feel like I fit in. I’m feeding off their energy.”
Consistency at the defensive end is what ISU has to maintain to have success on the road.
“We have to all get on the same page, and that’s going to come with focus. Through our two days of preparation, I think our focus is there, we just have to put it in play,” Small said.
Without Munn, Small can see multiple players stepping up to provide scoring.
“I can definitely give us some points on the inside. I’m pretty sure other players will step up too knowing Munn’s going to be out of the game. It’s going to make other people step out of their comfort zone, and I think that will help us quite a bit,” Small said.
Littleton and Grier, first-year Sycamores who transferred from junior colleges, are capable of stepping up and Munn’s absence might provide more opportunities. Littleton, averaging 3.9 points on the season, is ready.
“It’s just keeping effort up on the defensive end. I need to make plays and help us get stops. We need people to make plays and knock down shots,” Littleton said.
Grier is scoring 2 ppg in 16 games of action. Can the learning curve for junior college transfers be difficult?
“They’ve got probably 60 collegiate games under their belt [before coming to ISU]. If there is an adjustment period, it should be short. I think the only thing they’re trying to get used to is the system both offensively and defensively. I don’t think the adjustment should take as long as it’s taken for some of ours,” Moren said.
Illinois State is coming off a split on the Bradley-Loyola trip, falling to the Braves and knocking off the Ramblers. The Redbirds start a four-guard lineup, with 5-10 sophomore Octavia Crump the only post player.
“Crump is playing at an all-time high as far as her confidence,” Moren said. “If she stays out of foul trouble, which she’s starting to do, she’s going to be a challenge for us on the inside.”
Indiana State at Illinois State
Tipoff — 8 p.m. today at Redbird Arena
Broadcasts — TV: None. Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5. Twitter: @TribStarCraig.
Last time out — ISU lost at Loyola by a score of 71-58. Illinois State lost at Bradley, 64-62.
Series — Illinois State leads 46-38.
Indiana State Sycamores (12-8, 7-2 MVC) — G Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir (5-9, Sr., 14.4 ppg, 4.0 apg), G Kasey Johnson 5-9, So., 1.8 ppg), F Lashonda Littleton (6-1, Jr., 3.9 ppg), F Racheal Mahan (6-1, Jr., 10.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and C Marina Laramie (6-2, So., 9.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are the possible starters. G Jasmine Grier (5-9, Jr., 2 ppg), G Stephanie Wittman (5-10, Jr., 5.2. ppg), G Natasha Zurek (5-9, Jr., 2.3 ppg), G Travecia Franklin (5-9, Jr., 0.6 ppg) and Rhagen Smith (6-2, Fr., 1.2 ppg) are key reserves.
Coach — Teri Moren (61-53 in fourth season at ISU)
Illinois State Redbirds (5-14, 4-5 MVC) — G Chloe Nelson (5-7, Sr., 14 ppg), G Stekara Hall (5-8, So., 8.7 ppg), G Lindsay Smith (5-11, So., 7.5 ppg), G Katy Winge (5-11, Jr., 4.7 ppg) and F Octavia Crump (5-10, So., 10.1 ppg) are probable starters.
Coach — Barb Smith (5-14 in first season at Illinois State)
Injuries and absences — For ISU, G Anna Munn (knee) is out.
— Craig Pearson