With the new Missouri Valley Conference back-to-back format for women’s basketball – two games against the same opponent at the same location over two days – the team learned that it was almost obligatory to get at least a split to stay close to the league standings stop.
That said, the State of Illinois opened its MVC season with two defeats in Northern Iowa last weekend. So the Redbirds will do their best to avoid the 0-4 conference start when they come to the renovated Hulman Center on Thursday and Friday for the 6pm contest.
As usual, due to the COVID-19 issue, no fans were allowed into the facility.
Indiana State (4-3 overall) split at Loyola last weekend – winning 63-48 and losing 59-52 – so the Sycamores are one game behind co-frontrunners MVC UNI and Southern Illinois. But 16 matches, including an upcoming pair against the State of Illinois, remain on their regular season schedule.
Indiana State coach Vicki Hall, who gained a wealth of consecutive playing experience during his early 2000s WNBA career, left Chicago on Saturday with mixed feelings about his team’s performance against Loyola. Following the defeat in Game 2 to the Ramblers, he used personal experience to emphasize the importance of mental toughness to his players.
“Every game in the Valley is important,” Hall said after Wednesday’s training at the Hulman Center. “They are important because there are no ‘given’ games. Every team is good. We have to make sure we are ready and ready to go at any time.”
Hall said Sycamores’ focus in training this week was on execution – offensively and defensively.
“That’s what we do,” he told the Tribune-Star. “So hopefully you’ll see a much better result against the State of Illinois.”
One player trending in the right direction is Adrian Folks, who averaged 6.0 points over Sycamores’ first five non-conference games.
Coming off the bench twice against Loyola, however, the 6-foot-high second-tier striker led Indiana State in scoring with 14 and 11 points, respectively. In that defeat, he went 5 for 5 off the field and grabbed the team’s six highest rebounds.
“I just prepared myself better mentally,” explained the crowd Wednesday. “I gained confidence and accepted my role in this team.”
Although he has only started one of Sycamores’ seven games, he is third in the team in minutes played per match (23.9).
Did the weekend show Folks get him a thing or two earlier this week?
Hall did not say one way or another on Wednesday, adding: “For me, it doesn’t matter who starts the game. What matters is who finishes it.”
After all, people weren’t worried about that. He will leave the lineup decisions to Hall and he will only play as hard as he can when given the opportunity.
“Adrian has always had a knack for scoring goals and he’s getting more and more comfortable with the things we do,” Hall pointed out. “So the more comfortable he is, the more he looks.”
If Guys take more chances against Redbirds – and don’t bet against them – he’s pored over many game films this week to see what to expect from them.
“They put up a nice screen,” said Folks. “They are a straight-line moving team, so we have to make sure that we deny their reversal.”
“They’re a good team,” said Hall. “They arrested JuJu [Juliunn] Redmond, who did a great job scoring the goals individually. “
Redmond, the 5-11 senior guard, trailed the Redbirds by averaging 13.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per outing. In scoring, he is followed by 5-8 second-class guard Mary Crompton and 5-8 junior guard Terrion Moore, each at 11.6 ppg. The State of Illinois is trained by Kristen Gillespie.
Lost in the chaos, perhaps, is that these will be the first two conference games in the State of Indiana inside the renovated Hulman Center.