News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 8, 2014

ISU goes cold at end, falls to Redbirds

Strong bench effort overshadowed by Sycamore 25 turnovers

NORMAL, ILL. — Indiana State was unable to bounce back from a poor defensive performance at Loyola, dropping into a tie for second place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 53-50 loss to Illinois State (6-14, 5-5 MVC) on Friday night.

The Sycamores (12-9, 7-3 MVC) went without a field goal in the final 3 minutes, 50 seconds, giving up multiple leads in the final minutes.

Still, ISU had shots to make plays in crunch time.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir missed an open 17-footer that would have tied the game with 10 seconds to go.

The Redbirds rebounded then inbounded against Indiana State’s full-court pressure, and Kasey Johnson forced a jump ball to get the Sycamores one more chance.

Stephanie Wittman looked for a driving lane but hesitated and dragged her pivot foot for Indiana State’s 25th turnover of the game.

Wittman scored a team-high 10 points to post one of her best games in a Sycamore uniform, which was much needed with Anna Munn sidelined with a knee injury. Coach Teri Moren called Wittman’s number but the junior Kansas State transfer lost the boldness she had been playing with earlier in the second half.

“As [the Redbirds] were doing, we figured they were going to double Qisy and keep the ball out of her hands,” Moren said. “We figured our next option would be to put it in Steph’s hands and try to come off a high ball screen and try to get to the middle. We had that, she decided to stop, put on the brakes and traveled… All I know is the idea was for her to go make a play and she didn’t.”

Wittman went 4-of-6 from the field as Indiana State’s bench outscored Illinois State’s 20-0. Jasmine Grier scored five in her first start of the season, and Rhagen Smith contributed a big 3-point play late in the first half.

In the second half, Indiana State was able to put runs together, but they were unable to provide the knockout blow due to mistakes.

Wittman’s steal and driving basket put Indiana State ahead 47-44 with just more than four minutes left. Abdul-Qaadir added a jumper to put the Sycamores ahead five, but the Sycamores were unable to put the Redbirds away.

Illinois State scored five straight to tie it. ISU forced a miss but Stekara Hall overpowered Wittman on the weakside. Wittman compounded her mistake by fouling and Hall’s 3-point play knotted the score at 49 with 2:35 to go.

Hall led all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and 10-of-13 from the foul line.

Overall, the Sycamores held the Redbirds to 33 percent from the field, but put them at the line with regularity throughout the night.

“There were moments I thought our zone was good to us down the stretch. In a big critical moment, we got them to miss and we miss a check-out,” Moren said. “From that standpoint, I thought it was good to us up until that point. You’re in a zone and you’re susceptible to some rebounds and we didn’t get on the back side of that.”

Neither team could put together an extended run during a tight and sometimes sloppy first half at Redbird Arena.

The Sycamores had 12 turnovers but remedied that problem early in the second half to put together a 13-6 run.  Wittman hit her second 3-pointer of the second half, stretching the Sycamores to their largest lead of the game, 40-33 with 11:12 to go. Then ISU stretched it to 42-34 on a bucket on the low block by Mahan.

The Redbirds fought back, scoring nine unanswered points over the next five minutes to take a 44-43 lead.

Decision making became an issue in the final 10 minutes as the Sycamores finished with 25 in the game.

Abdul-Qaadir, who was the focus o f the Redbirds’ defense coming off a 32-point performance at Loyola, took her share of the blame.

“We had 12 [turnovers]  in the first half and I had three of them. Tonight the ball was really loose. I definitely had way too many turnovers tonight, and I think that cost us a lot of plays. We had a lot of wasted possessions tonight,” Abdul-Qaadir said.

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