TERRE HAUTE —
The Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship is out of reach, but a preferred seeding is still on the line as the Indiana State women’s basketball team hits the road for its final two games before next week’s MVC tournament.
Heading into today’s 8 p.m. matchup at Northern Iowa, coach Teri Moren’s Sycamores (17-10 overall) are tied with UNI (14-14 overall) for fourth/fifth place in the MVC standings at 9-7. Wichita State (14-3), Creighton (13-3) and Illinois State (12-4) have clinched the top three seeds for the conference tournament, which will take place March 15-17 at St. Charles, Mo.
Bradley, Saturday’s 3 p.m. opponent for the Sycamores in their regular-season finale, sits in sixth at 7-9.
A victory for ISU today would guarantee a spot in the MVC tourney’s fourth- and fifth-place game. Even with a loss, the Sycamores would still have a chance of being in that contest, depending on how they fare Saturday and how Bradley fares in its home game tonight against Illinois State.
For the record, Bradley has lost to Northern Iowa twice and Indiana State once thus far. Northern Iowa’s other game this week will be at home Saturday against Illinois State.
“It’s a big weekend for us,” Moren told the Tribune-Star before flying out of Indianapolis on Wednesday. “Those are two very good teams. We have to play well. One of the things about this team is we’re pretty resilient.
“You never want to rely on other people. We can’t depend on Illinois State [to knock off Bradley or Northern Iowa]. We’ve got to take care of our business.”
ISU already lost to Northern Iowa once — 54-52 Jan. 6 in Hulman Center — as MVC scoring leader Jacqui Kalin led the visitors with 21 points.
A 5-foot-8 senior guard, Kalin tallies 19.3 points per outing against all opponents and 20.5 points against MVC foes.
“By all accounts, she should be the conference Player of the Year,” Moren insisted. “Counting her assists [Kalin averages 3.8 per game], she’s probably responsible for 60-65 percent of their scoring. She’s a fantastic player.”
The Sycamores have an effective scorer themselves in 5-10 junior guard Anna Munn, who’s tied for second in the conference at 15.0 ppg.
On Saturday, Indiana State will be facing a balanced crew in Bradley’s Braves, who have four players posting double-digit scoring averages. Interestingly, all of Bradley’s starters in its 73-51 triumph at Evansville on Sunday were listed as guards.
“It’s a team that starts five guards and spreads you out,” Moren confirmed. “It’s like an organized open gym [playing against Bradley]. … It’s difficult when you’re guarding guards with legitimate post players like [6-1] Racheal Mahan and [6-2] Marina Laramie.”
When the Sycamores slipped past Bradley 55-54 on Jan. 4 in Hulman Center, they needed a free throw by Taylor Whitley with 7.5 seconds remaining to complete a second-half comeback. Munn and Mahan tied for ISU’s high-scoring honors with 18 points apiece.