News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 7, 2013

Buzzer Beaten: Northern Iowa scrapes by Indiana State

TERRE HAUTE — Teri Moren may have had a significant conversation with her Indiana State team at halftime Sunday, and coach Tanya Warren might have had a similar talk with her Northern Iowa players sometime between Friday night and Sunday’s opening tip.

Only one of the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball teams could bounce back all the way, however, and when freshman center Jen Keitel banked in a no-look turnaround rebound basket with 1.6 seconds to go, it was the visiting Panthers who got away from Hulman Center with a 54-52 decision.

It was Indiana State’s first home loss of the season, and left the Sycamores with a 1-1 conference homestand.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Moren, whose team had fought valiantly to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit. “Give our kids credit for the second half, but not the first half. … We were not good on either end [in the first 20 minutes].

“This is what the [Missouri] Valley’s all about,” she said moments later. “It’s difficult, whether you’re at home or on the road.”

The visitors had farther to bounce back than a 10-point deficit, coming into the game having lost four of five and suffering a 72-41 blowout at Illinois State in their conference opener on Friday, but they went on an 11-2 run that resulted in a 17-9 lead near the midpoint of the first half.

ISU threatened to make a comeback before intermission when Taylor Whitley assisted on a basket by Racheal Mahan, then got two free throws after a steal by Jessica Valley. But from there the Panthers spurted again and ended the half on an 8-2 run for a 30-20 lead.

UNI’s Jacqui Kalin, the MVC’s leading scorer, was finding occasional holes in the Sycamore defense. On the other end, dogged work by Keitel (who blocked Mahan’s first two shots) and Brooke Brown (guarding ISU’s leading scorer Anna Munn) frustrated the Sycamore offense.

“They did a tremendous job on Anna,” Moren agreed, “and we didn’t do a great job getting her open looks. … We’ve got to find two or three other young ladies [to help in the scoring column]. Defensively, it wasn’t one of our better performances.”

“This is one that hurts you,” added Valley. “At the beginning we should have stepped up our intensity.”

The Sycamores were more their feisty selves in the second half, however. After the teams exchanged baskets twice, ISU got a drive by Whitley and a 3-pointer by Kasey Johnson that cut the UNI lead to 34-30.

Both teams were scoreless for more than three minutes, but then Whitley hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to a point,  and Valley — with just three career 3-pointers going into the game — added another to give the Sycamores their first lead since 7-6.

A 3-pointer by Brittni Donaldson 30 seconds later broke the Panthers’ six-minute drought and gave them a 37-36 lead, and the rest of the game went back and forth.

ISU had its biggest leads at 42-39 and 44-41, the first of those achieved when Valley drew consecutive offensive fouls on Panther players, taking what was eventually ruled to be a flagrant elbow on the second to set up two free throws.

With a 45-43 lead, however, the Sycamores allowed Kalin to find open space for back-to-back 3-pointers, the second of those coming after a Panther airball was ruled to be a blocked shot, giving the visitors an extra possession. Now UNI was up 49-45.

Munn got free for a 3-pointer that cut the lead to one and Mahan scored inside for a 50-49 ISU lead with 1:51 to go. Then the defensive leaders stepped up offensively for the visitors, Brown hitting a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left and Keitel getting her only basket of the game following two game-tying free throws by Whitley with 28.7 seconds left.

“We went small in hopes we could gamble a little bit [defensively],” said Moren, who had five guards on the floor for UNI’s final possession and forced a wild 3-point attempt by Kalin. “It was a hard rebound to come up with, and we didn’t.

“It was a game we felt we should have won. … We got the stop we wanted, got [Kalin] to take a tough shot.”

Despite the second-half effort, it all came back to the first half for Moren.

“It’s disappointing to have to dig yourself a hole for the light to come on,” she said. “Give Northern Iowa credit, and give Jacqui Kalin credit.”

Kalin led the visitors with 21 points and Hannah Schonhardt added 11. Although she had just one basket, Keitel hurt the Sycamores with game-high totals of 13 rebounds and five assists.

Whitley led ISU with 12 points and four assists, while Mahan managed 11 points plus 12 rebounds and three blocks and Munn scored 10.

Valley accounted for seven of UNI’s 19 turnovers — five steals and the two drawn fouls — and was nearly decapitated in a no-whistle loose-ball scrum in addition to taking the elbow. “It was rough,” said maybe the MVC’s smallest power forward. “I’m undersized for the post, so I expect it. … My role is to get offensive rebounds, set good screens, draw charges.”

She also scored a career-high nine points, though, and hit that huge 3-pointer. “When you hit shots, it helps [your confidence],” was all she’d admit when questioned about her offensive capabilities.

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