WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Having finally conquered the fear of seeing its season end, the Illinois State women’s basketball team hopes to continue the process of extending it today.
“This is such a close-knit team and there is such a fine line between playing not to lose and playing to win,” ISU coach Robin Pingeton said. “They don’t want the season to end, but in reality it’s going to end. Let’s just make sure it ends when a better team beats us, and we don’t put ourselves in a position because of our emotions to beat ourselves.”
After surviving a poor start and a shaky finish on Wednesday to down Butler, 57-54, the 25-7 Redbirds meet 15-16 Purdue today in an 11 a.m. second round Women’s National Invitation Tournament game at Mackey Arena.
ISU was devastated by a semifinal loss to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and had difficulty regrouping for Butler four days later.
“This year there was such a quick turnaround because they added some additional teams to the WNIT. We didn’t have a lot of time to get our minds right,” said Pingeton. “It’s hard when you put your heart out there and give it everything you’ve got and don’t feel like you reached the destination you hoped for. It’s hard, but it’s life, too.”
Junior point guard Amanda Clifton believes the Redbirds have finally moved on.
“We promised Coach P we weren’t going to play how we felt, which was pretty down,” Clifton said of the Butler game. “We had a lot of talks, and I think everybody is over it. We know we have new opportunities and new things for us to do. We’re going full steam ahead right now.”
Despite an under .500 record, Purdue earned an automatic bid into the WNIT by being the highest finisher in the Big Ten Conference regular season not to make the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers opened WNIT play with a 56-50 win over Eastern Michigan.
“It was a gut check,” Boilermakers’ coach Sharon Versyp said. “We had to make free throws. We had to make plays.”
Brittany Rayburn, a 6-foot sophomore, is the only Purdue player scoring in double figures at 14.6 per game. Jodi Howell, a 5-11 senior, is next at 8.1. The leading rebounder is 6-2 freshman Sam Ostarello (5.1).
“Purdue is very balanced. They’ve got very good 3-point shooters and a nice inside game,” said Pingeton. “Rayburn, their main player, is very talented. But we’ve really got to focus on our approach as much mentally as we do physically.”
The Redbirds played in Mackey Arena while dropping a 2008 NCAA Tournament game to Oklahoma.
“A few players had a chance to play on that court. It will be familiar to them,” Pingeton said. “I certainly think it helps.”
The ISU-Purdue winner will face either Kansas or Creighton in the round of 16.
The MVC was 3-0 in the first round of the WNIT with Creighton and Missouri State also posting victories.
Illinois State vs. Purdue
Time: 11 a.m.
Site: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
Radio: WJBC-AM (1230)
Records: Illinois State 25-7; Purdue 15-16
Series history/last meeting: ISU leads series, 5-3 (Purdue won, 72-48, on Dec. 16, 1991).
About the Boilermakers: Purdue is playing in the postseason WNIT for the first time. Prior to this season, the Boilermakers had appeared in 16 straight NCAA Tournaments … Purdue has scored 1,852 points and given up 1,852. That’s an average of 59.7 … The Boilermakers have a minus 2.1 rebounding margin … Purdue leading scorer Brittany Rayburn averages 18.0 points in wins and 11.4 in losses this season … Senior guard FahKara Malone was named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive team … Senior guard Jodi Howell has 187 career 3-pointers, the second most in school history.
Next up: Winner advances to WNIT round of 16 against Kansas or Creighton, TBA
Prediction: Illinois State 61, Purdue 56
(Scoring, rebounding averages)
F – Ashleen Bracey, 6-0, Sr. (15.2, 7.8); C –Nicolle Lewis, 6-6, Sr. (11.8, 7.0); G – Maggie Krick, 5-11, Sr. (14.4, 4.8); Amanda Clifton, 5-8, Jr. (3.3, 2.5); Katie Broadway, 5-9, Soph. (7.6, 1.5).
F – Samantha Woods, 6-3, Soph. (5.1, 3.4); C – Chelsea Jones, 6-4, Soph. (6.4, 4.4); G – Jodi Howell, 5-11, Sr. (8.1, 1.8); Brittany Rayburn, 6-0, Soph. (14.6, 3.3); FahKara Malone, 5-3, Sr. (6.4, 3.0).