Eagles look for improvement after UE loss

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Rick Stein’s Eagles fell in their lone exhibition game at the Ford Center to the University of Evansville.

Pat Hickey

There was a reason why University of Southern Indiana women’s basketball Head Coach Rick Stein scheduled the University of Evansville for another preseason exhibition game at the Ford Center.

The Purple Aces run a motion offense and play man-to-man defense, which is true of most teams the Eagles will play in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) this upcoming season.

The only difference is that Division I teams play at a faster pace than Division II. UE proved that quickness in a 78-68 win over USI on Saturday afternoon, in which UE led USI by double-digits for more than 60 percent of the game.

“We could have practiced for 10 hours and not got out of it what we got out of this game,” Stein said. “(Evansville) really got in our face early and their pressure defense was solid. Game speed is something we’re always trying to be at in practice. But it’s not until you get in this type of environment that it shows you the game is fast and you have to be ready every possession.”

Despite committing 22 turnovers and shooting 34 percent from the field—including 3-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half—the Eagles still managed to score 68 points in 81 possessions.

That was due, in large part, to getting to the free throw line 32 times; but, USI had its fair share of open looks at the basket. They just couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net for the first 15 minutes.

“I think as we got into the second half, we took care of the ball a little bit better,” Stein said. “I thought, in both halves, we had some open looks. We had the ball in the right place a lot of times. That tells me a lot of good things are to come offensively.”

The Aces led by 13 at halftime. Following that, the Eagles switched from having two post-players in the paint to just one. That helped in transition defense, and it opened up the floor considerably for its guards, who were able to find a consistent rhythm offensively.

There was a brief moment in the second half where USI could have done some damage.

With 7:51 left in the game, senior guard Stephanie Carpenter knocked down consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 25 seconds to cut the USI deficit to four.

But the Aces responded quickly with an 11-2 run on clutch free throw shooting and 3-pointers by junior forward Mallory Ladd and sophomore guard Laura Friday to push its lead back to double-digits for good.

“We really just took too long to feel (the game) out,” said Carpenter, who led USI with 20 points. “We weren’t really prepared to play our game. They were ready to go and we weren’t. We had a lot of open looks and we just weren’t hitting them.”

The much-anticipated matchup between Ladd and USI junior forward Anna Hackert was nostalgic. Both won a state championship as teammates at Evansville Memorial High School in 2009.

Ladd fouled out but had a team-high of 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Hackert—a Super 16 preseason All-American—had a double-double of her own with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“I think we were more patient in the second half,” Hackert said. “In the first half, we were rushing everything. Once we calmed everything down and let the play develop, we picked up a lot of fouls and got to the free throw line.”

USI will host Asbury University for its season-opener at noon on Saturday at the Physical Activities Center (PAC). The Eagles open the regular season schedule with four straight home games, including the opener on Saturday. USI welcomes long-time rival Kentucky Wesleyan to the PAC Nov. 26. The Panthers left the GLVC conference after last season and moved to the newly created Great Midwest Athletic Conference.