By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State did not pull off the monumental upset Saturday against No. 23 Kansas State, but the Wildcats are —aside from Connecticut in 2005 — the best team the Sycamores have played in the Jim Wiedie era.
Playing the stiff competition will only help the Sycamores’ chances in the Missouri Valley Conference, where the team was picked to finish seventh.
Kansas State coach Deb Patterson was impressed as she stated during her opening comments in Saturday’s press conference.
“They’re going to be a factor for sure in Missouri Valley Conference play as they move through the season,” said Patterson, the two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year. “It’s a team that does not give up. I don’t think in any way, shape or form were able to match our athleticism, but still kept the game close and tight and played well I thought.”
The Big 12 currently ranks second in the nation to the Atlantic Coast Conference, according to www.collegerpi.com, but the Big 12 finished No. 1 in those rankings last year. This is a similar Kansas State team that won that league’s regular-season title last season.
“I really believe as a league as well or better than any conference in the country right now from 1-12,” Patterson said. “When you have 7 kind of hovering in that Top 25, and as many as 3 or 4 have jumped into that Top 15, it’s very legit. When you look at a Baylor, and an Oklahoma and a Texas and a Texas A&M;, you’re talking about very, very athletic teams that can compete with anybody in the country.”
Kansas State has an extremely disciplined defensive team; pair that with their athleticism and length and it can make for a long day for many opponents. ISU hit two late 3-pointers to give themselves a chance, and Patterson quickly called a timeout.
“Well, we were having some breakdowns, and going into this game we knew that Indiana State’s ability to shoot the 3 was something we wanted to have a preoccupation with so I reminded them of that fact again,” Patterson said. “We were not playing as fast as they were playing.”
ISU coach Jim Wiedie was dynamic after the game in explaining how well he thought his team competed, especially considering the Sycamores were riding a 4-game losing streak before Friday’s win against Eastern Illinois.
“I am so proud,” Wiedie said. “The score doesn’t reflect it, but I am so proud of the way they came out and how hard we played, the execution we had defensively to hold a team as talented as K-State, to hold them to 58 points and having to foul them at the end for them to get to 58 is an incredible job.”
Senior Leah Phillips echoed those sentiments.
“I know it’s a loss, but we walk away doing some great things,” she said. “We competed with a top team in the nation. That’s motivation going into Butler, playing an in-state rival. We had a great effort. We just have to take away positives from it and be ready to play Monday.”
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (812) 231-4357.