NORMAL - It's safe to say Redbird Arena isn't one of Jim Wiedie's favorite Missouri Valley Conference venues.
"I haven't had a lot of fun at Redbird Arena the last few years," Indiana State's sixth-year women's basketball coach explained. "There are a lot of demons over there."
Wiedie and his league-leading Sycamores get another shot at recent nemesis Illinois State at 4:05 p.m. today in a renewal of what has developed into one of the fiercest rivalries in the Valley.
Indiana State enters with a 17-2 overall record, 9-0 Valley mark and a 15-game winning streak which is tied for the second-longest in the nation. The Sycamores will also bring some haunting memories.
Illinois State lost 13 of 14 games to Indiana State before Coach Robin Pingeton's arrival two years ago. The Redbirds have won four of seven under Pingeton, including a last-second 72-70 victory in the championship game of last year's Valley Tournament at Redbird Arena.
"Before Robin got there it really wasn't a rivalry," said Wiedie, who has been on the Sycamores' staff since 1997. "Since she has taken over the program it has really become a battle. Going over there is going to be another challenge for us."
Pingeton, whose team has improved to 8-10 overall and 3-6 in the Valley with three victories in its last four games, expects another emotionally charged game with the Sycamores.
"It's a real healthy rivalry," Pingeton said. "I think a lot of that is location and being travel partners, but even more just for the fact we play similar styles. We're both pretty physical teams, we both like to shoot the threes and we both like the transition game."
Indiana State gained a measure of revenge last month with a 92-76 win over the Redbirds at Terre Haute. Senior guard Melanie Boeglin, the prohibitive favorite for Valley Player of the Year honors, led the Sycamores with 20 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and six steals.
"When we went up there it was certainly a game they had marked on their calendar for a long time, and I anticipate them coming back to Redbird Arena will kind of stir up those emotions again from the conference tournament," Pingeton said.
The Sycamores average a league-leading 79.5 points behind Boeglin, who ranks third in the Valley in scoring (18.2) leads the league in assists (7.7) and steals (3.9).
Boeglin erupted for 46 points in a double-overtime win over Drake last week and torched the Redbirds for 30 points in last year's Valley Tournament title game. Four other Sycamores average at least 9.8 points.
"(Boeglin) is a tremendous player and a hard-nosed competitor," Pingeton said. "She's a senior and she's going to give it everything she's got. We're going to have to try and stop her by committee.
"But we can't put too much focus on Melanie Boeglin because they have a tremendous supporting cast. You watch tape on them and they do not have a weak link on their team. It's a team you have to respect everybody at every position."
Illinois State will counter with similar offensive balance. Freshman point guard Kristi Cirone averages a team-high 13.7 points and 4.5 assists and is one of four Redbirds scoring in double figures.
Senior forward Holly Hallstrom, who had a career-high 30 points in last month's game against Indiana State, adds 13.3 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds.
"It's a big game for us," Cirone said. "We want to start the second half of the conference on a strong note. We can't have mental breakdowns."