News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

March 3, 2014

Senior Day Success

ISU wins, as its season rebounds

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State shot just 35 percent from the field Sunday in Hulman Center compared with 46 percent for the visiting Bradley women, but that was almost a good thing.

The missed shots merely gave the Sycamores a few chances to rebound, which they did with a vengeance — particularly in the second half — in a 73-60 Missouri Valley Conference basketball victory on Senior Day for players Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir and Anna Munn.

ISU grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and 49 overall to just 20 defensive rebounds and 23 overall for the Braves. In the second half, the disparity was even worse — 17 offensive rebounds for ISU, only nine defensive boards for Bradley.

And at that point, the Sycamores needed every one of those.

Thanks to a week of collapse by Wichita State, which suffered “shocking” losses to both Evansville and Southern Illinois, the conference race is suddenly wide open again. With ISU being one of the three teams having four MVC losses, the Sycamores control their own destiny — which is why the last part of Sunday’s first half was a little frightening.

“There was a lot of shakeup [in the conference standings],” coach Teri Moren said after Sunday’s game. “We always tell our players, ‘You don’t rely on other people. Do your work and everything else takes care of itself.’ ”

When the Sycamores bolted to a quick 13-2 lead Sunday against the Valley’s ninth-place team, it appeared they were indeed doing their work. But the Braves had other ideas.

Defending better than the Sycamores were for a while, Bradley gradually cut into that lead, and the ISU offense stagnated. The Braves got within 25-24; were held off twice by Munn’s off-balance runner off the glass and her two free throws after an offensive rebound; and failed to score on their first chance to take the lead while trailing 29-28.

Abdul-Qaadir made sure ISU led the entire half with an assist to Jasmine Grier, then three free throws. But the margin at intermission was just 34-32.

“We had a little bit of a drought,” Moren said afterward, “and a little bit of difficulty guarding Bradley off the bounce.”

“The Missouri Valley right now is up and down,” added Abdul-Qaadir. “You can’t take any team lightly.”

Then the Sycamores asserted themselves. Grier, who finished as ISU’s leading scorer with 18 points, rebounded her own miss for the first basket of the second half and Racheal Mahan — whose foul-induced absence in the first half coincided with Bradley’s comeback — muscled home another rebound hoop.

After a basket by Bradley’s Kelsey Budd cut the lead to 38-34, Mahan scored again — on the fourth shot of ISU’s possession — then got a deflection at the other end that led to a basket by Abdul-Qaadir. A long rebound that was recovered by Marina Laramie enabled Grier to hit a 3-pointer, and suddenly the home team’s lead was 45-34.

“We talked about [offensive rebounding] before the game,” Moren said later. “Twenty in a game is our goal — and we got 20 when we played at Bradley [an 80-67 win Jan. 31]. … That’s just heart and hustle.”

Bradley continued to hang around for a while, and was still within 51-44 at the second media timeout of the second half. But then Grier hit a 3-pointer, Abdul-Qaadir a driving runner off glass and Laramie two free throws — after an offensive rebound, naturally. Now Bradley trailed by 14, and never again came closer than 12.

“It was a great weekend for the Sycamores,” Moren summarized. “It’s always nice to send your seniors out of here with a win.”

Abdul-Qaadir added 17 points and four assists and Munn — who is due to have a hot streak from the 3-point area — added 16 points and eight assists for the Sycamores. Budd had a game-high 19 points while Michelle Young scored 13 and Kelly Frings 12 for the Braves.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Munn when asked about her last home game. “I’ve got nothing but good memories here in Hulman Center.”

“I’ve enjoyed it all,” Abdul-Qaadir agreed. “I thank my teammates and coaches for getting this opportunity.”

“It’s bittersweet,” Moren said of Munn, the first ISU senior she’s coached for four years. “It’s sad that we won’t see her in Hulman Center again, but the sweet part is that there’s still a lot of basketball ahead of us. She’s a tremendous teammate, a tremendous player. No other kid in my four years has had more impact.”

Of Abdul-Qaadir, a graduate-student transfer in her only Sycamore season, the coach added, “She was looking for a place [to compete and enjoy the experience]. … We have a good team that enjoys each other’s company. The kids feed off her energy, and she’s a lot of fun. A piece that we needed was a point guard that had pace to her … and she has a real comfort level when she’s around [her teammates].”

The two seniors acknowledged that they also noticed recent changes in the conference standings as they prepare for road games this week and Drake and Northern Iowa, the latter one of the other four-loss teams.

“[Having another chance to win the conference] gives us incentive after some of our bad losses on the road,” Munn said.

“You don’t know what to expect [in the MVC] and that’s why it’s so exciting,” added Abdul-Qaadir.

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