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Redbirds Upset Top Seeded Salukis In MVC Semi-Finals

Written by on March 12, 2022

MOLINE, Ill- Playing in the Hoops in the Heartland semi-final for the second time under Coach Kristen Gillespie the Illinois State Women’s basketball team was also trying to avoid losing to the Southern Illinois Salukis for the third time this season.

Gillespie’s squad took care of business and flipped the script as they dispatched the Salukis by a score of 50-42. The Redbirds become the first 4 seed to advance to the championship since Creighton did so in 2012.

“You gotta give our team credit,” Gillespie said. “I’m sure not a lot of people thought that this was going to be the outcome. But the belief our 14 women have in each other, and our staff is unmatched. I think our belief is a powerful thing because when you believe you can achieve your dreams and we’re one step closer to achieving our dream of playing in the NCAA tournament.”

It was Juju Redmond who led the way for ISU with 18 points. DeAnna Wilson picked up her second double-double in as many days recording 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kate Bullman also notched 11 rebounds in the victory.

Wilson burst onto the scene getting the scoring started in the first quarter. The St. Louis native would chip in six points in the first frame of action.

Redmond led all scorers with 8 points in the first half which was a huge factor to the Redbirds hot start. After two quarters of play it was Illinois State in favor by a score of 20-15.

The Salukis were energized out of the half which led to a tie game at 24-24 all. Bullman put her team back in the lead with a clutch shot from within the paint. Illinois State would bounce back and increase their lead to 35-24 as the quarter was capped off by three made free throws from Maya Wong. The ‘Birds went on a 13-0 run to close out the quarter.

“Against a team like them it’s going to be a grind out game, every possession is critical,” Gillespie said. “Our message this whole week was to just stay in the moment. If we can keep living in that moment, I really love the way we’re playing.”

In the fourth quarter SIU brought the score within six points going on an 8-0 scoring run in the final three minutes of play. The Redbirds were able to weather the storm in huge part to two free throws courtesy of Redmond who was playing through an injury.

The Redbirds became the first Valley team to clinch a spot in the championship and will tip-off against the winner of Missouri State and Northern Iowa at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.