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Birds Hang On to Win Tournament Opener

Written by on March 10, 2023

MOLINE, Ill. – It wasn’t easy for the Redbirds, but in the end ISU women’s basketball won the opening contest of their MVC tournament run over Murray State, 75-73.

From the opening tip, the Racers made it a point to match the Redbirds nearly shot-for-shot, with leads exchanging and deficits refusing to surpass five points throughout the first half, which ended in a 40-40 tie following a pair of Paige Robinson free throws.

One of the more pressing issues for the Redbirds was an uncharacteristic performance from beyond the arc for Mary Crompton, who shot three-for-ten on the game. Despite the lackluster performance she saved her best shots for when it mattered most, twice sinking triples in the fourth quarter with the game tied.

“Frustrating shooting for most of the game really, but every single one that came off felt good, so I really had confidence” said Crompton. “Every single one of those I thought was going in.”

As they have done all season, the Racers struggled in the third quarter, allowing the Redbirds to finish the quarter with the largest lead for either team all game, 11 points.

The Redbirds struggled similarly in the fourth quarter, as lackluster shooting from the field gave Murray State all the time they needed to make it a nailbiter of a finish.

“We just needed to get some stops and get some good shots, honestly,” said Murray State Head Coach Rechelle Turner. “And I think we did that . . . We had that energy in the third quarter and they pulled away, but we found that energy in the fourth quarter.”

The game finished with ISU’s best free throw shooter at the line, as Maya Wong made good on both shots at the charity stripe to take the final lead of the game by two points.

“I wasn’t disappointed that she was the one that got fouled,” said ISU Head Coach Kristen Gillespie. “We have great faith in all our players but Maya-she is a really gifted foul shooter, especially in pressure and I knew if the ball was in her hands something positive was going to happen.”

Another important note from the stat line was Freshman Abbie Aalsma’s 11 points. Aalsma made three-pointers thrice in the game, tying her career high.

“Abbie I think is one of the best freshmen in our league . . . but Abbie Aalsma happens to play behind these two young ladies and that’s a tough spot to be,” said Gillespie in reference to Crompton and Paige Robinson. “But before we left after Wednesday morning’s practice I told her, ‘We can’t do this without you.’”

The Redbirds continue their tournament run tomorrow, as they play Drake at 1:30. Coverage resumes for WZND at 1:20 with the Redbird women’s basketball pregame show, continuing from opening tip to final buzzer.