The Illinois State University women’s basketball team (13-8, 5-5 MVC) takes on the Loyola Ramblers (15-7, 6-5 MVC) and the Valparaiso Crusaders (13-9, 5-6 MVC) this weekend.
Redbirds vs. Ramblers kicks off at 7 p.m. Feb. 14 in Normal as part of the Ballin’ in Love promotion. Loyola won the Jan. 19 matchup by a score of 69-64 in a game where the ’Birds scored four points in the first quarter.
LUC and ISU sit in the middle of the pack of the conference. Both teams need to pile up conference victories to improve their seedings before the season ends in March.
Junior guard/forward Abby O’Connor leads the Ramblers in scoring with 13.3 PPG and rebounding with 8.1 RPG. Sophomore forward Allison Day averages the second-most scoring at 11 PPG. The Ramblers’ threats from the perimeter are O’Connor (33.7% from three) and sophomore guard Janae Gonzalez (37.5% from three).
Loyola averages the 68.3 PPG and outscores opponents on average by 6.1 points. The Ramblers tend to win the rebound battle by eight per game. Interestingly, they break dead-even on the turnover ratio of 15:15.
Look for ISU to send a lot of defensive attention to O’Connor’s way. The ’Birds limited her to five points on 2-6 shooting and seven rebounds in their previous matchup. Day was the heroin that game with 17 points on 6-10 shooting and five rebounds in just 24 minutes. It will be interesting to see how the dynamic frontcourt of Lexi Wallen and senior forward Megan Talbot handle a similarly skilled counterpart.
At 2 p.m. Feb. 16, the ’Birds will play the Valparaiso Crusaders in Normal as part of the Play4Kay promotion. ISU won the matchup on Jan. 17 by a score of 72-60 as senior guard TeTe Maggett exploded for 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Senior guard/forward Grace Hales leads the Crusaders in scoring with 12.8 PPG. Redshirt junior guard/forward Addison Stoller is second on the team with 11.5 PPG. Stoller also leads the team in rebounding with 5.5 RPG.
Hales has been efficient from three this season as she holds a 41.7% clip from deep. On modest volume, Stoller is drilling 47.2% of her attempts (25-53). In general, Valpo’s team three-point percentage of 33.8 is more than respectable.
As a team, Valpo averages 67.1 PPG and outscore opponents by 2.2 points. They make 8.8 three-pointers a game and hold opponents to 27.9% from distance. The Crusaders’ biggest weakness is their rebounding, as they are out-rebounded opponents by 8.5 rebounds per game. Valpo holds a positive turnover margin of +2.9.
Look for the ’Birds to use their size to their advantage and force the Crusaders off their coveted three-point line. ISU’s interior scoring and rebounding will play a major factor against a smaller team that is weak at rebounding, to begin with.
After this weekend, Illinois State only has six games remaining: UNI, Drake, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Evansville and Indiana State. This is ISU’s chance to make a run and decide what kind of season this ends up being.