ST. CHARLES, Mo. —
Indiana State’s women’s basketball team came into Friday’s MVC Tournament quarterfinal game against Loyola having shot 48.1 percent overall during its five-game winning streak to close the regular season.
The Sycamores never came close to that in The Family Arena. Loyola blocked an MVC Tournament-record 12 shots by the Sycamores to force them into shooting 29.4 percent from the field.
ISU made that dismal statistic irrelevant thanks to defense and rebounding, holding off Loyola for a 61-52 win.
ISU advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
Marina Laramie led the Sycamores with nine of her 15 points in the second half. The sophomore from nearby O’Fallon, Mo., had six of those points during a 9-2 ISU run after halftime.
The Sycamores led 38-31 at the 17-minute mark thanks to Laramie, who converted a 3-point play and connected for a 3-pointer at the top of the key to fuel the offense.
The Sycamores were energized after the break.
“The challenge was we felt like we were really passive in the first half and we weren’t as connected as we’ve been,” Moren said. “We looked a little bit uninspired. We had to be able to get it done on the defensive end and rebound the ball.”
Anna Munn, who hit two first-half 3-pointers, also finished with 15 points.
Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, who had hit the 20-point mark in ISU’s last two games, struggled against Loyola’s matchup zone defense, but she picked up timely buckets in the second half after going scoreless in the first half.
The senior point guard got in the lane for a short jumper on the heels of a Stephanie Wittman 3-pointer. That 5-0 spurt gave the Sycamores their largest lead, 43-35, with 11:25 to play.
But Loyola came back with a 6-0 run — four by Troy Hambric — to make it 43-41. Wittman elevated for a baseline jumpshot for two of her nine points off the ISU bench.
Munn said earlier this week that ISU has the best bench in the league. Wittman’s perimeter contributions were big.
“I think we found other ways to help the team out. It’s good to have the bench we have,” Munn said. “We knew coming in we were going to win. There was no doubt in any of our minds that we were going to lose this game. At halftime, we said this is our half. We came out hustling and like coach said, making the 50-50 plays.”
Abdul-Qaadir had three steals and may have caused a couple more turnovers as the Sycamores forced 17 for the game and converted them into 17 points.
“We really wanted to try to slow her down,” Loyola coach Sheryl Swoopes said. “She’s a phenomenal talent. She does a really nice job getting them in their sets. She did a nice job running their stuff today.”
Indiana State, who reached the 20-win mark Friday for the fourth time in school history, will play No. 5 seed Drake today at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
The Bulldogs defeated No. 4 seed Evansville 71-61 later Friday, snapping the Purple Aces’ eight-game winning streak.
Freshman Lizzy Wendell poured in 28 points and MVC Player of the Year Kyndal Clark hit four first-half 3-pointers for the Bulldogs.
ISU swept the season series with Drake, winning 90-81 in Hulman Center and 73-31 on the road.
Expect a better offensive performance today, Moren said.
“I think we’ll shoot it a little bit better than we did today. Our depth has been good to us. It’s taken a while to figure out what the rotation was going to look like, but we found one we’re pretty comfortable in,” Moren said.
Loyola finished its season 11-21 under Swoopes, one of the greatest player in the history of women’s basketball.
“I don’t like to lose. It was everything that I thought it would be. The experience here at Loyola in my first season has been an amazing transition for me,” Swoopes said. “We’ve battled injuries and had players step up. I don’t like to lose. I’m looking forward to going back to work and getting ready for next year.”
LOYOLA (52) — Crosby 3-5 4-4 10, Hambric 9-23 3-4 21, Booker 0-1 0-0 0, Lindfors 0-6 1-2 1, Smith 2-7 0-0 4, Stefaniu 0-0 0-0 0, Nazon 0-0 0-0 0, Soane 2-4 0-0 4, Farley 4-10 0-0 10, Faught 0-1 0-0 0, Beavers 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-58 FG, 8-10 FT, 52 TP.
INDIANA STATE (61) — Laramie 5-16 4-5 15, Grier 2-10 0-0 4, Mahan 3-13 4-6 10, Abdul-Qaadir 2-7 4-7 8, Munn 4-12 5-5 15, Zurek 0-1 0-2 0, Small 0-3 0-0 0, Wittman 4-6 0-2 9, Franklin 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-68 FG, 17-27 FT, 61 TP.
Halftime score — ISU 29, LU 29. 3-point shooting — LU 2-12 (Farley 2-6, Smith 0-4, Booker 0-1, Faught 0-1), ISU 4-16 (Munn 2-6, Wittman 1-3, Laramie 1-1, Grier 0-4, Abdul-Qaadir 0-1, Small 0-1). Steals — LU 7 (Crosby 4), ISU 10 (Laramie 3, Abdul-Qaadir 3, Wittman 2, Franklin, Grier). Assists — LU 16 (Hambric 4), ISU 11 (Abdul-Qaadir 4, Grier 3). Turnovers — LU 17, ISU 12. Blocks — LU 12 (Crosby 5, Hambric 3, Lindfors 2, Soane, Beavers). Total fouls — LU 21, ISU 13. Fouled out — none.
Next — Indiana State (20-10) plays Drake (16-14) at 2:30 p.m. EDT today in the MVC Tournament semifinals. Loyola finished its season 11-21.