Head coach Bill Fennelly and the Cyclones beat a former assistant coach and a former player on Wednesday night in their 74-67 victory over Illinois State. Redbird head coach Robin Pingeton was an assistant under Coach Fennelly before going to Illinois State in 2003, and senior guard Megan McCracken played for the Cylones her freshman year before transferring to Illinois State. The media had a chance to talk to Fennelly after the game.
Bill Fennelly: The two things initially for are that we are very happy to be 9-1 and we need a break. The coaches need a break and the players need a break. We knew this would be hard. Illinois State played a very good game. They play a lot of players. They hit some big shots at big times. We couldn't convert some great opportunities that would have made a difference. We have managed nine times to find a way to win using a lot of different people. Toccara had another great night. She gave us a lot of energy and made some big time hustle plays. I thought Lyndsey played one of her better games. Her first half was really, really good.
Did the defense spark the stretch run at the end of the game?
BF: That was the thing that we kept talking about in the timeout that we need to string together some stops. When the game is going back and forth, you are looking at a couple stops and you can win the game. We had more defensive energy the last six minutes than we did most of the early part of the game. The shots they got were under duress. We got to the rebound and we were efficient enough offensively. We did the things defensively that we needed to do to win the game.
Were you surprised by the half-court style game?
BF: Yeah it was. I think both teams tried to get out and run it a little bit. The pace of the game was kind of sporadic. I think that led to some mistakes by us especially on the defensive end. A couple times they did push it and we didn't get matched up. A couple times we did and they didn't get matched up. It was a lot more half-court than I thought it would be. Overall, that's how we ended up going inside so much. We just have to do a better job converting those opportunities on the inside.
What did you see in the team when you were down by two points late?
BF: I think the number one thing is that you have to rely on your go to players to make plays. We talked about defense. I think Toccara was really locked in in the second half. Heather does a good job defending in those kinds of situations. It comes down on Lyndsey's shoulders to make the right decision with the ball. They weren't panicking. They are very upbeat and very positive. That allows them to get through some tough times when they aren't playing that well.
Is the reasoning for the needed break mental or physical?
BF: Probably the mental part of it. We haven't practiced that long, that hard. We may practice less than any Division I team in the country when you really look at the time we put in to it. Mentally, they have been here for a long time. They need to go home with family and friends and forget about basketball. You have to have mental toughness to be able to play through breaks like this. A lot of these girls are also going through this for the first time. I think they