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Redbirds soar in their home opener at Redbird Arena

Redbirds soar in their home opener at Redbird Arena

Sophmore Megan Talbot led the Redbirds against Northern Kentucky with scoring 17 points and eight rebounds. (Photo courtesy GoRedbirds.com)

NORMAL – Illinois State University Women’s Basketball team (1-1) hosted the Northern Kentucky Norse (0-2) at Redbird Arena for their home opener Wednesday night under first-year head coach Kristen Gillespie.

After falling to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, a fellow opponent of NKU in the Horizon League last week, a round ISU squad  was motivated to start off the Gillespie era strong at home. Despite losing the tip-off, ISU got off to a strong run in the first quarter, taking a 5-2 lead while tallying 3 steals. After a strong quarter on both sides of the ball, the ‘Birds found themselves down 13-11, looking the rebound in the second quarter.

The Redbirds struggled to get things going in the second quarter, as their first points did not arrive until late in the half. A late steal by freshman Guard Paige Saylor was taken in for a layup to cut the deficit to one, but a successful three pointer from NKU hurt the momentum as time expired. Though the Birds were down 23-19 at halftime, first-year coach Gillespie pushed the Redbirds to a successful second half.

 A motivated women’s team came out strong at the beginning of the third quarter. They capitalized on their opening possession as Talbot places a jumper into the hoop to shorten the Norse lead to two. The Birds’ time on defense didn’t last long as junior Forward Simone Goods stole the ball and was fouled as she breaks down the court with an opportunity to tie the game. After making both free throws, ISU was back in the game, but things did not stop there.

ISU kept playing strong defensively on NKU to force four turnovers within two-and-a-half minutes. Junior Guard Viria Livingston’s layup bounced into the basket that led to a and-one situation. Her successful free throw topped off a three point play to give the Redbirds their first lead of the game.

On the ensuing possession, Livingston stole the ball and found senior Forward Hannah Green whose jump shot went in, giving the senior her first points of the season and a 28-25 lead for the Birds. ISU came out running and never looked back as they outscored NKU by nine points and took a 37-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Picking up where they left off at the end of the third quarter, ISU began the quarter strong, pressing the Norse and converting their turnovers into points to increase their lead. Their determination in the second half to steal momentum was achieved as they beat the Norse 47-39, getting their first win of the season.

“I told the team that this was a must-win for us,” Gillespie commented. “They (ISU) executed our game plan and got us the win.”

The first-year head coached then added that “we want to defend our home court.” The Redbirds capped off a successful night defensively forcing 27 turnovers and converting them into 26 points.

“We are never going to lead the country in offense,” Gillespie said. “But what we will do is play really hard on defense, and we’re gonna make it really challenging for teams to score against us.”

The Redbirds look to add to their winning streak as they travel to Virginia to take on the George Mason Patriots (1-1) on Wednesday, November 22, with the game set to tipoff at 11 a.m.

Anthony Ferretti contributed to this story

Anthony Ferretti

November 15th, 2017

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