First of all, kudos to Old National Bank for buying 2,000 tickets for Saturday’s game against Evansville in Hulman Center. While the crowds have been growing the past few games to more than 4,000 fans, I’ll be disappointed with anything less than 5,000 fans to send Melanie Boeglin, Kristen Weddle, Lisa Verhoff, Ashley Clark and Erin Hendrickson out for Senior Day.

If you’ve been under a rock the last few years or are new to Terre Haute, Boeglin is a native of Terre Haute and has led the Sycamores to a second regular-season conference title this year. ISU would have to lose its last two games to not clinch this year’s title outright.

Boeglin, Verhoff and Hendrickson were a part of the 2002-03 team that tied Creighton for the conference title.

Let’s hope that Saturday’s game is their last in Hulman Center. If it’s not, it will mean that the Sycamores didn’t win the conference tournament and move on to their first NCAA Tournament. (WNIT are four letters I’d just assume avoid this year.)

Those interested in a free ticket can visit any Old National Bank location.

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Indiana State didn’t play Sunday’s 70-65 loss to Drake with the urgency or the poise the Sycamores are going to need for an entire weekend March 10-12 at Hammons Student Center, site of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

The Sycamores got some bad breaks on tipped balls on several occasions, but allowing 14 second-chance points in one half of basketball is unacceptable.

Give the Bulldogs credit. They’re a good team that has given ISU all it has wanted in two games this season, but the Sycamores weren’t hungry enough on defense or on the boards.

“You get outrebounded 41-32, allow 14 second-chance points. It’s going to come back and hurt you. That’s two games in a row, we’ve done that,” Coach Jim Wiedie said.

While the whole team needs to box out and go harder after the ball, Rachel Maenpaa must dedicate herself to defensive rebounding. She got off to a good start this season, but she’s been on a decline the second half of the season. The Sycamores play zone, which can hurt rebounding, but in the matchup zone they’re matched up on a particular player. Everyone has to box out. Ashley Clark had five boards Sunday in 11 minutes, and Kara Schilli has shown rebounding to be perhaps her biggest strength.

Amy Stephens said after she and her team watched Creighton get 13 offensive rebounds against the Sycamores, that was the emphasis of her halftime speech.

“We just challenged our kids at halftime to go get some offensive boards. We knew we could rebound against them,” Stephens said. “It’s just a matter of putting forth the effort.”

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It also seems like the Sycamores need to have more confidence in getting the ball to the post. If they don’t have anything right away off the floor-game offense with the ball screen, Boeglin and the other guards tend to stand around and dribble too much.

Pass it in to Clark, Rudolphi, Lisch or Maenpaa. If they don’t have a shot, trust your teammate to toss it back out. Then the outside shot or penetration from the perimeter could be there. Against good teams, ISU has to consistently show more patience.

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According to collegerpi.com, Indiana State is 32nd in the nation. Sunday’s loss at home to Drake (111th) will probably drop ISU to about 40th. With a strength of schedule ranked over 100, the Sycamores’ chances for an at-large NCAA bid are gone.

“I would be stunned if there’s not a big drop [in our RPI]. We just have to finish off strong, maintain that No. 1 seed, regroup after the regular season and make it a three-game sweep, you know take care of business in the tournament.”

Craig Pearson can be reached by phone after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4356 or by email at craig.pearson@tribstar.com.

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