News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 9, 2013

ISU women overcome tough first half to win opener

Sycamores defeat South Alabama behind Munn's 16 points

TERRE HAUTE — Coach Teri Moren termed it “a tale of two halves.” Anna Munn chalked it up as “just one of those nights.”

Whatever the explanation, Indiana State’s 53-40 win over South Alabama in women’s college basketball Saturday evening in Hulman Center was anything but ordinary.

The Sycamores scored 11 points in the first half — getting only a steal and layup in more than 10 minutes and getting only two baskets in almost 15 minutes — and 42 in the second.

They shot 18 percent from the field, 14 percent from 3-point range and were 0 for 6 at the foul line before intermission but were well over 50 percent from the floor for most of the second period and hit 5 of 10 from beyond and arc in the last 20 minutes (free throw shooting improved, but not much).

But as much as Moren wants to see her team’s offense improve — “Our goal is to shoot 45 percent [from the field],” she said afterward — it’s still a long way from being the Sycamores’ calling card.

As ridiculously bad as ISU was on offense in the first half, it was ridiculously good defensively. Even though the Sycamores went from having four points at the first media timeout to just eight points at the media timeout 12 minutes later, they were actually ahead 8-7 at that point.

Natasha Zurek came off the bench to provide a conspicuous defensive presence and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir seemed to be in every passing lane, but there were no slackers in white uniforms. “We had 24 deflections at the half,” Munn said afterward. “That’s unbelievable for us.”

South Alabama warmed to the task in the last four minutes of the half, scoring eight points, but when Munn hit her team’s first 3-pointer at 2:39 ISU actually had another lead at 11-10. It was defense that kept the home team within 15-11 at the break and, the Sycamores said after the game, it was defense that got them going in the second half.

Two free throws had the visitors ahead 17-11, but then ISU put scores back-to-back — another 3-pointer by Munn, then a basket by Abdul-Qaadir.

The Jaguars scored twice in a row themselves, building their lead to 21-16, but momentum swung when Munn got another 3-pointer while Marina Laramie was being fouled under the basket. Getting the ball in addition to the three points, the Sycamores tied the score on Munn’s two free throws.

South Alabama had one more lead, on two free throws by Ronneka Robertson, but Abdul-Qaadir drove for a three-point play that gave ISU its first second-half lead. Munn added a third 3-pointer, and then the rest of the team relaxed and played offense themselves. With less than four minutes to go, ISU had a 49-29 lead after going on a 33-8 run.

“We’re the two leaders,” Abdul-Qaadir said after the game. “When we see faces [of our teammates] looking down, it’s up to us to get them up.”

“All the girls look up to us,” Munn agreed. “When they see us not put our heads down, they feed off that.”

“We expect Anna to score,” Moren said, “and we’ve tried to put pieces around her to help her … [Abdul-Qaadir] is a playmaker; she can not only get her own, she creates for others.”

The ISU seniors were the only double-figure scorers in the game, Munn with 16 and Abdul-Qaadir with 11. Jasmine Grier was another noteworthy performer off the ISU bench with a team-high eight rebounds.

“It all started on defense,” Abdul-Qaadir said in explaining the second-half differences. “Then we just have to execute on offense … we feed off each other’s energy, like a chain; energy will get us a long way.”

“In the second half we really responded … put everything together,” Munn added.

Having contributors like Zurek, Grier and others on Saturday is also vital. “Depth is something we like,” Moren said. “We have other pieces we can put in [if we’re struggling].”

“Our depth will push us far into the tournament,” Munn predicted, “and prove everybody right [for picking ISU to win the Missouri Valley Conference].”

• One piece missing — Unavailable for Saturday’s game, and questionable for the next one, was Lashonda Littleton, a starting forward in ISU’s exhibition game a week earlier.

“She tweaked her knee at practice Thursday,” Moren said, “and her condition is unknown … she goes to the doctor on Monday.”

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