News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

November 11, 2013

ISU women hope offensive frustration has played out

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State gets its first women’s basketball road test of the season today when the Sycamores make a short trip west to face Eastern Illinois. Tipoff is 8 p.m. EST in Lantz Arena.

ISU’s defense held the fort long enough in Saturday’s season opener for the Sycamores to record a 53-40 win over visiting South Alabama — 42 of the home team’s points coming in the second half — while the Panthers are playing their home opener after losing 81-46 Friday at Evansville.

“We got a little frustrated [offensively] in the first half [on Saturday],” coach Teri Moren said after Monday’s practice. “It would be concerning if we took bad shots or if the wrong people were taking them … but we had great shots.”

The 4-for-17 performance Saturday by ISU’s two starting inside players is something Moren doesn’t think she’ll see too often; the coach hinted Monday that she expects a bounce-back performance from Racheal Mahan, who had just two points in the season opener.

“She’s an all-conference player, or at least we think she is,” Moren said.

A third scoring option beyond four-year starter Anna Munn and senior transfer Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir — who combined for 27 points Saturday — would be welcome for the Sycamores, but you get the impression that if they have to pitch a shutout to win a game they’re willing to give that a try.

“It’s a great feeling stopping other teams. That’s what we strive for,” said Natasha Zurek, who gave the Sycamores a defensive spark as they held USA to 15 first-half points. “We went to create offense from our defense.”

Also extremely active defensively Saturday — in addition to being ISU’s leading rebounder — was junior college transfer Jasmine Grier, who said she’d never been known as a good defensive player before.

“[The ISU coaches] are teaching me to be long, to get used to my arms,” she said, two days after refusing to allow the player she was guarding to pass the ball past her. “Coming here I’ve learned a lot of defensive stuff.”

Both Zurek and Grier made their contributions off the Sycamore bench, and aren’t expected to be in the starting lineup tonight either.

“It’s exciting for us, all the additional pieces,” Moren said Monday. “Our depth is going to be something that’s special.”

“Whatever I can do to help the team,” Zurek said. “I like watching the game [early], so I can see how I can help.”

“We’re a pretty strong team, and our chemistry is really good,” Grier added. “Munn and Bilqis are doing a great job leading us.”

Coming off the bench is “a pretty humbling experience,” the smiling 6-footer added, “but I’m enjoying the atmosphere. We’ve got a solid five; I’m just blessed to be in the position I am.”

ISU’s defensive challenge against the Panthers is dealing with height. EIU goes 6-2, 6-2, 6-0, 5-11 and 5-10 in its starting lineup, with Mahan having the challenge of taking on 6-2 Bulgarian forward Sabina Oroszova. “She’ll have to defend without fouling,” Moren noted.

The tradeoff for the height, however, is that the Panthers play without a true point guard. ISU defenders had 24 deflections in the first 20 minutes Saturday, and wouldn’t mind a similar number tonight.

“Evansville pressed them,” Moren said, “and we’ll probably have to do the same.”

The Panthers have a new coach, former WBNA defensive player of the year Debbie Black. The Panthers continue to recruit northern Indiana heavily, with one of their starting forwards being Morgan Palombizio of Chesterton — her father Dan was an Indiana All-Star from Michigan City Rogers — and one of their freshmen being Aaliyah Gaines, who played state championship games in Hulman Center the past two seasons for Fort Wayne Canterbury.

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