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Taking a Look Back On Redbirds Women’s Basketball

Written by on April 20, 2020

NORMAL, Ill – Illinois State women’s basketball was preparing for a big run at Hoops in the Heartland before their season abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“We actually found out during our practice at the TaxSlayer Center the day before our game against UNI,” said Head Coach Kristen Gillespie. “ Needless to say, it was extremely emotional. There were a lot of tears and hugs. The hardest part for me was that there was nothing I could say or do to make it better.”

The Redbirds were riding a four-game winning streak into post season play which included taking down nationally ranked Missouri State. That win against Missouri State was the Redbirds first win against a nationally ranked opponent in 28 years.

It seemed as the Redbirds were only starting to play their best basketball of the season as Coach Gillespie expanded on how far she believed the team could have gone in postseason play.

“I really liked how we were playing down the stretch. I thought we were getting some quality production off the bench that was really going to help us in the postseason,” said Coach Gillespie. “For the first time since I have been at Illinois State, our team headed to the Quad Cities fully believing that we were going to win the tournament.  And to be honest, I felt the same way. I really believed we had a great chance to play on Sunday for a NCAA tournament berth.”

Although the question remains on how far the Redbirds would have gone in postseason play, there is no denying that they had a record breaking season. The Redbirds finished with an overall record of 19-10, which is the best record yet since Head Coach Kristen Gillespie took over the program back in 2017. They also finished the season with an RPI of 74, which is their highest-ranked finished in seven years.

Coach Gillespie expanded how she viewed the season and what were the season highlights for her.

“I really believe our best basketball was yet to be played. I think this group would have made a run in the Quad Cities and would have played well in either the NCAA or WNIT tournament,” said Coach Gillespie. “I think beating Missouri State was probably the biggest highlight of the season. It was the first time we beat a ranked opponent in 28 years. There were also so huge individual plays that I will always remember like Lexi Wallen’s 10 points in the last 39 seconds vs Loyola and TeTe Maggett’s shot at UNI, but I will also remember this team for how much they cared about each other and how much fun we all had together.”