NORMAL - The excitement generated by an impressive 4-0 start has been quelled by back-to-back losses.
Illinois State women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton isn't close to pushing the panic button, but she didn't hide her displeasure following Thursday's 76-60 home loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay.
"I don't like our approach right now. Whatever we're doing is not working," Pingeton said ahead of today's 2:30 p.m. game against Oakland (2-4) at The O'Rena in Rochester, Mich.
The Redbirds continued two season-long trends against Wisconsin-Green Bay, falling behind in the first half and shooting a frigid 36 percent from the field for the game. ISU managed to whittle a 20-point deficit to 10 in the second half before the Phoenix pulled away again.
"This is the kind of competition that's on our schedule from here on out," Pingeton said. "We've got to grow up and get ready to compete at a higher level. I still don't think we're playing with the right kind of intensity and mentality we need to play with to be successful for 40 minutes.
"It's a game of runs and spurts and you have to be able to defend, stay focused on offense and value the ball. I feel like were soft defensively. We're getting beat to spots and we're getting beat off the dribble. We've got to get tougher in a hurry."
Pingeton was encouraged by the second-half comeback as the Redbirds continued to play without junior guard Megan McCracken, who has been sidelined the entire season by a stress fracture in her right hip. McCracken is the Redbirds' top returning scorer.
"With under three minutes to go we got a wide open look in the corner and could have cut it to single digits and that's without (McCracken)," Pingeton said. "Despite the fact I didn't think we played real well, there were still opportunities for us down the stretch and that's a real positive when you look at what we're coming close to doing without Megan.
"But I've said this all along and I stand firm. We will not make excuses that Megan McCracken is not out there and we're a young team."
Oakland, which handed ISU an 82-70 loss last year at Redbird Arena, suffered a 74-72 loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay earlier this month. The Golden Grizzlies' attack is led by senior guard Jayme Wilson (16.5 ppg), senior center Anne Hafeli (16.2 ppg) and junior forward Nicole Piggott (13.8).
Forward Holly Hallstrom, ISU's lone senior, leads the Redbirds in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (9.7). Hallstrom is coming off a 16-point, 14-rebound performance against Wisconsin-Green Bay. Freshman point guard Kristi Cirone (14.3), sophomore guard Ashley Sandstead (11.2) and sophomore forward Amber Shelton (11.0) are also scoring in double figures.
"We've got to find a way to get back to our winning ways," Pingeton said. "It's a long season and we've got a lot of games ahead of us. We'll get it figured out."