News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

January 25, 2014

Sycamore women hoping to stay atop Valley after two big home games

ISU faces Missouri State, Wichita State

TERRE HAUTE — The program with the strongest women’s basketball historic tradition and the most successful Missouri Valley Conference program of the last three years visit Hulman Center over the next three days.

Missouri State, home of 18 NCAA Tournament appearances and five WNIT berths, will try to give Indiana State its first loss of the MVC schedule today.

Wichita State — last year’s regular-season and tournament champions in addition to averaging 12.3 conference wins the past three years — has the potential to bring a 6-0 MVC record into Terre Haute for a Monday night battle against the Sycamores (10-6, 5-0).

“What we talk about with our team is every game’s big,” ISU coach Teri Moren said. “If we do what we need to do [today] and take care of business and Wichita does the same at Illinois State, then perhaps the scenario would be two undefeated Missouri Valley teams playing on Monday night. First things first, this is a very good Missouri State team.”

The Bears (7-9, 2-3 MVC) are capable of putting up points in a hurry, averaging 72 points during Valley play behind senior center Bry Snow (15 ppg in MVC games) and sophomore guard Kenzie Williams (15 ppg overall).

The Sycamores swept the Bears last season, but they had the look and sound of a team focused on the task at hand after Friday’s practice.

“We’re only 5-0 and it’s not like we came in and blew these teams out,” ISU forward Racheal Mahan said. “We’ve worked hard for every single win. We’ve just got to keep our focus and know that any Valley team can come in and beat us at any time.”

Mahan and Marina Laramie will have a tough task against a Bears squad that’s as good as anyone in the league in rebounding.

“They’re definitely a lot better team than they were last year,” Mahan added. “Bry Snow, she’s pretty good inside, so that’ll be a big matchup. Bry’s sister, the other Snow, she gave us some troubles last year with her speed and their transition. Hopefully, we’ll stop the transition, stop them down low and stop them rebounding.”

Point guard Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, averaging 16.8 points during the 5-0 Valley start, is becoming a more comfortable leader for the Sycamores.

“I was just telling everyone in our huddle, I don’t think we’ve played a game yet where we’ve left it out on the floor,” Abdul-Qaadir said. “And I think tomorrow proves a lot about us. That’s what we need to do, give it all we have [today] — and on Monday, of course.”

Moren pointed out that Missouri State seems to be re-energized under first-year coach Kellie Harper.

“They’re different than they were last year, they have a new staff, new energy, new life, new philosophy,” Moren said. “They’re playing much more energized than they did last year with the same pieces. This is a very good basketball team that we play [today].”

The Sycamores are hoping to continue to improve defensively. They’re allowing just 53.6 points and holding opponents to 36.6 percent shooting during league play, which both lead the league.

In contrast, coach Jody Adams’ Shockers are leading the league in scoring and field-goal percentage at 82.2 points and 47.9 percent. The Shockers have been a stout, aggressive defensive team every year Adams has been at the helm.

“I wouldn’t really say biggest challenge,” ISU senior Anna Munn said. “It goes back to us. It’s about us, it’s not about the person we’re playing. It’s about how we handle the pressure and the defensive end.”

It’s definitely a big game, Munn said.

“As a player that’s one of the games you look forward to on your schedule,” she said. “That game’s going to come down to whoever plays the hardest and gets the most stops on defense and can get the ball in the hoop.”

The Shockers are led by junior point guard Alex Harden. The preseason Player of the Year is living up to the hype, averaging 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

“[Adams] has them playing so hard and they’re so disruptive,” Moren said. “Even though they lost quite a bit from last year, they haven’t lost their edge defensively. The kid that they have now are picking up the scoring they lost to graduation. Very impressive team on film. Jody has them playing as hard as I’ve seen a team play this year, and I’ve watched a lot of basketball this winter.”

n Alumni day — Indiana State will honor 12 former Sycamore players at halftime of today’s game, including Terre Haute natives Melanie Boeglin and Kristen Weddle.

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