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Redbirds drop a tough one to the Drake Bulldogs

Redbirds drop a tough one to the Drake Bulldogs

Junior Viria Livingston dribbles the ball down the court as the Redbirds busted open an early lead. (Photo courtesy GoRedbirds.com)

NORMAL – Illinois State women’s basketball (8-11) welcomed the top of the conference Drake Bulldogs (13-7) to Redbird arena on Friday night in what turned into one of the best game of the year for the Redbirds despite falling short.

The Redbirds entered the game as huge underdogs as Drake sat atop the Missouri Valley Conference with an undefeated record in conference play. Drake entered Friday nights game average 83.2 points per game. On the other hand, the Redbirds sat atop the conference on the defensive side of the ball only allowing opponents to score 54.4 points per game.

The Redbirds pounced on the Bulldogs to open up the game. Paige Saylor and Hannah Green went 4 for 4 from behind the arc, which played a key role in a huge first quarter for the Redbirds.  ISU lead by as many as 11 throughout the first quarter as the Redbirds shot 64.3% from the field and 83.3% from three. Paige Saylor lead all scorers through the first quarter with 10 points after shooting a perfect 3 for 3 from the field and hitting a shot from the charity stripe as well.

“We had one week where we had to make 500 shots and most of those were from the three and that just gave me a lot more confidence,” said Saylor.  The Redbirds carried a 24-14 lead going into the second quarter.

The blazing hot start the Redbirds came out with quickly cooled as the Bulldogs responded in the second quarter. The lead that the Redbirds had built quickly evaporated as Drake outscored ISU 16-6 in the second to send the game into halftime tied at 30. Hannah Green Lead the way in a sluggish second quarter for the Birds, as she score 5 of the teams 6 points.

Megan Talbot and Hannah Green led the Redbirds in the third, chipping in for a combined 8 points. Paige Saylor, Viria Livingston, and Simone Goods also contributed with a combined 7 points in what was a back-and-forth third quarter. Drake was able to get their first lead of the game with 2:17 to play in the third but Hannah Green delivered a clutch layup with 7 seconds left to play and sent the game into the fourth tied at 45.

Katrina Beck opened the scoring in the fourth, hitting a free throw to put the Redbirds back out in front. Drake quickly responded to jump back out in front but the Birds still had fight in them. The teams continued to trade punches in another back-and-forth quarter. The game came down to the final three minutes of play as ISU and Drake were tied 54-54. With 2:52 left on the clock, the Bulldogs jumped back out in front and never looked back, as they went on a seven-point run. The Redbirds tried to fight back but time was not on their side and Drake was able to hold the lead and secure the 65-58 victory.

The Redbirds never stopped fighting and coach Kristen Gillespie, had nothing but praise for her team after the game.

“I’m incredibly proud of our young women, the toughest part as a coach is wanting something so badly for your kids,” said Gillespie. “All week long our kids practiced, prepared, and believed that this was how this game was going to go, we really believed that we were going to beat them.”

The Redbirds welcome in the Northern Iowa Panthers on Sunday, January 28, for their next match-up. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

Hector Carrion

January 27th, 2018

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