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December 8, 2012

Indiana State women continue stingy defense, toppling UIC 64-33

TERRE HAUTE — So inspiring was the second-half defensive performance by the Indiana State women Friday night in Hulman Center, an official even got in the act.

When referee David Stewart inadvertantly thwarted a breakaway attempt by Terri Bender of the University of Illinois-Chicago just past the midpoint of the half — with the visitors still scoreless in the second period — it appeared the home team might actually post a 20-minute shutout in the nonconference college basketball game.

Alas, a late 11-2 run by the Flames wiped out ISU’s chances for an NCAA record (3 points allowed in a half) and two school records (7 points in a half, 20 steals), but the 64-33 final score didn’t make anyone in the visitors’ lockerroom very happy.

“Just a tremendous win, and a tremendous defensive effort,” coach Teri Moren said after her team had held UIC scoreless for 13 minutes and 10 seconds and without a field goal for 18 minutes and 28 seconds. “[Assistant] coach [John] Marcum had the scout, and even though we had just a two-day turnaround [since Tuesday’s win over Northern Illinois] I thought our preparation was great. And [assistant] coach [Joey] Wells does a great job with the kids defensively.

“But of course, [the Sycamores] have to go out and execute the plan too.”

The list of executioners from the home team is a long one. Kasey Johnson had the early assignment against UIC’s Rachel Story (19 points per game) and — with help from Natasha Zurek and brief spells by Taylor Whitley and Trevecia Frankin — frustrated Story into a 2-for-12 night that seemed to drag the rest of the Flames down with her. Whitley had four of ISU’s 18 steals and Marina Laramie was maybe the most noticeable example of an ISU team that was as fierce with its lead approaching 40 points as it was when the game was close.

“Every timeout we talk about our game goals, and about not letting up on the gas pedal,” Moren said afterward.

“Our heart is so big for the game,” Laramie explained, “no matter how wide a lead we have, we play every possession.”

Lost in the defensive excellence of the second half was Anna Munn’s first half, in which the Sycamores’ leading scorer took advantage of the Flames’ zone defense for 19 points. Munn hit five straight shots at one point, the last three of them from behind the arc, and obviously was the key to ISU’s 30-21 lead at intermission.

“We weren’t really expecting to get that wide open,” Munn said after the game. “Taylor [Whitley] and Tash [Zurek] and the other guards were finding me, and they said, ‘Keep shooting’ … it was going in today.”

That nine-point halftime lead could have been tenuous, particulary with Story in the other lineup. “She’s a transfer from Louisville, she played in the Sweet 16 [with the Cardinals],” Moren noted. “She averages about 24 [field goal] attempts per game, and she can score in a variety of ways. But give credit to Kasey, who had her from the tip, and to the post players extending on the ball screens … and we took away her dribble-drive opportunities.”

A lot of things were taken from the Flames in the second half. By the time the visitors had their second point of the half, ISU had scored 30. Story didn’t score after the intermission, yet her six points enabled her to share team honors.

Munn entered the game with a career high of 20 and settled for 23 on Friday, with Laramie adding 11. No one was paying particular attention to offensive stats.

“This is a team that’s all about each other,” Moren said appreciatively. “They play for each other, and they play to get wins.”

“We had a really good offensive game, and obviously our defensive possessions were great too,” Munn said. “This is a fun team to be a part of … just a hard-working group of girls. Everybody’s bought in.”

“This shows what we can do when we come together,” added Laramie. “There is no limit [to what we can do] when we come together and play hard.”

• Bluestreaks in the house — Perhaps 100 fans made the short trip from Martinsville, Ill., to see former Bluestreak star Heidi Dahnke in action for UIC.

The senior forward, sporting a mask and a black eye that showed what her role on the Flames has evolved into, was a senior captain for the visitors but didn’t score and had a rebounding streak stopped. Dahnke had grabbed at least five rebounds in every UIC game this season, but had just one against the Sycamores.

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