TERRE HAUTE —
In Missouri Valley Conference play so far, Illinois State’s women’s basketball team leads the league in scoring offense at 69.2 points per game.
Indiana State is second in scoring defense as the Sycamores have allowed 56.3 points per game.
But one look at the MVC’s scoring margin shows that the Redbirds have been more of an irresistible force than the Sycamores have been an immovable object six games into the MVC’s season.
Illinois State’s MVC scoring margin is plus-11.2 and ISU’s is plus-2.
When the Sycamores travel to Redbird Arena at 8 p.m. tonight to renew acquaintances with the Redbirds, their stopping power will have to be at its stingiest in the paint as that’s where the Redbirds are most productive.
Illinois State ranks in the top 5 in all MVC statistical categories save steals and 3-point shooting, but forward Janae Smith is the Redbirds’ focal point. The 6-foot-2 sophomore averages 15.6 points and 9.1 rebounds.
Guard Candace Sykes averages 5.6 rebounds, in addition to 14.1 points in a sixth-man role. Jamie Russell averages 5.2 rebounds.
All have played a big part in Illinois State’s league-best 42 rebounds per game.
ISU’s Racheal Mahan — also a sophomore — has also been stout in the lane at 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. It’ll be the second game in a row where Mahan has faced stiff competition in the paint after she battled Evansville’s Mallory Ladd in last Saturday’s 55-54 home loss to the Purple Aces.
For ISU to be successful, it will have to shoot the ball better. The Sycamores currently rank last in MVC-only field goal percentage at 37.3 percent. Illinois State is the best team in MVC-only field goal defense as its opponents have converted just 35.2 percent of their shots.
Like ISU, Illinois State (12-6, 4-2) also lost at home to Evansville during last weekend’s cycle of games. The teams’ performances has mirrored one another, save for the Redbirds home win over Northern Iowa. That difference means the Redbirds are currently in fourth in the MVC, while ISU (11-6, 3-3) is in sixth place.
Tonight’s game is the first of three consecutive road games for ISU. The Sycamores are 3-4 in true games thus far. ISU has not won at Illinois State since 2007.
ISU at Illinois State
Tipoff — 8 p.m. today at Redbird Arena, Normal, Ill.
Broadcasts — Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5.
Last time out — ISU lost to Evansville 55-54 and Illinois State defeated Southern Illinois 89-41 last Saturday.
Series — Illinois State leads 44-37. ISU last won at Redbird Arena in 2007.
Indiana State Sycamores (11-6, 3-3) — G Taylor Whitley (5-9, Sr., 9.9), G Anna Munn (5-10, Jr., 14.8, 4.5 rpg), G Kasey Johnson (5-8, Fr., 4.4), G Jessica Valley (5-9, So., 4 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and F-C Racheal Mahan (6-1, So., 13.4, 8.1 rpg) are possible starters. C Marina Laramie (6-2, Fr., 6.1), F Travecia Franklin (5-9, So., 3 ppg), G Natasha Zurek (5-9, So., 3.1) are key reserves.
Coach — Teri Moren (42-38 at ISU, 3rd year, 172-111, 10th year overall).
Illinois State Redbirds (12-6, 4-2) — F Janae Smith (6-2, So., 15.6, 9.1 rpg), G Jamie Russell (5-8, Sr., 13.4), F Maddie Oliver (6-1, So., 5.2), G Alexis Jenkins (5-6, Sr., 5.3) and G Katy Winge (5-11, So., 3.6) are possible starters. G Candace Sykes (5-10, Sr., 14.1), G Alexis Foley (5-10, Fr., 4.2), F Briana Puni (6-0, So., 3.6) and G Chloe Nelson (5-7, Jr., 2.4) are key reserves.
Coach — Stephanie Glance (55-30, 3rd season at Illinois State).
Injuries — For ISU, F Mackenzi Reasor (stress fracture) is out.
Next games — ISU plays at Missouri State on Feb. 1.