News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

December 22, 2013

ISU women snap three-game losing streak with win over Butler

TERRE HAUTE — All the Indiana State women’s team wanted for Christmas was something good to happen.

The Sycamores had lost three in a row entering its Saturday tilt with Butler and tottered on the brink of letting a promising season sink into major disappointment.

For one game at least, those bad feelings washed away in a 62-56 victory over the Bulldogs at Hulman Center.

“We had some collective talks as a team … no coaches,” said ISU guard Anna Munn on ISU’s losing streak. “I’m really proud of how we responded.”

For 30 minutes, ISU (4-5) controlled nearly every facet of the contest, but most overwhelmingly so on the boards. ISU had a 46-31 advantage. Racheal Mahan had 15 of them, Marina Laramie chipped in 10.

“We had a talk and the coaches said we needed to step it up. Me and Marina both came out and were there for our team today. We wanted to let them know we’d do our job,” Mahan said.

ISU coach Teri Moren had made rebounding a point of emphasis all-around.

“I told Marina in practice that Anna Munn has two more offensive rebounds than she did. That shouldn’t happen. She kind of got the message. I thought her effort at crashing the boards was way better. Racheal was tremendous. I’m proud of all of them, but I’m really proud of Marina and Racheal,” Moren said.

ISU also played solid defense for the first 30 minutes. Butler shot 35 percent overall and failed to score in the first seven minutes of the second half.

ISU scored 42 points in the first half and shot 48.5 percent from the field. It was as good a half as the Sycamores have played all season.

“It was about time was the feeling. We’ve gone into halftime’s of pretty much every game feeling down without energy or enthusiasm, but this game was a turnaround,” Munn said.

Part of ISU’s success could be attributed to guard Stephanie Wittman. She played her first home game since she attained eligibility and she impressed with her shooting and aggressiveness. Wittman scored 10 points and was 2 of 3 from 3-point range.

Wittman provides ISU with a solid second shooter to complement Munn. The ripple effect on the opposing defense should put the Sycamores in good stead.

“Steph’s going to continue to get better. She’s not in game shape yet,” Moren said.

While ISU played a strong 30 minutes, it nearly gave the game away in the final 10 minutes.

With a peak lead of 20 at the 14:50 mark, the Sycamores had a comfortable 15-point margin with 10 minutes left when Butler (5-6) finally started to find offensive success. Much of it came from forward Ijeoma Uchendu, who scored all but two of her team-high 12 points in the second half.

ISU went into a shell offensively in the last six minutes of the half and Butler began to whittle away at its deficit.

Not helping ISU’s cause was four consecutive missed free throws from the 7:09 to 49.3 second mark, and when Butler’s Mandy McDivitt drained two free throws with 40.3 left, suddenly, the Sycamores had just a one-possession lead at 57-54.

It seemed ISU was destined for trouble when Butler aggressively trapped above the timeline, which kept the Sycamores from throwing the ball inside. The ball came to Munn on the right side, who was 37 feet away from the basket as the shot clock ran out. She had no choice but to heave it.

Swish. ISU had a 60-54 lead with 9.4 seconds left. Butler’s comeback effort ran out of time.

While the bucket certainly fell into the “better to be lucky than good” department, Munn’s prayer — and ISU’s — was answered and no one was about to apologize for it.

“The [3-point attempt] before that I didn’t read the clock well and it didn’t hit the backboard. This was the topper on the tree ... Merry Christmas,” said Munn, who led ISU with 13 points. “But I knew we were going to win anyway. The way we were down in defense and talking as a team. It was a fun game to be a part of.”

ISU has a week off before it plays Northwestern in the Tulane Tournament next Saturday.

“This team knows it has potential. It’s an effort thing. This was a step in the right direction,” Moren said.

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