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The Birds Take Game 1 at Hoops in the Heartland

Written by on March 11, 2022

Photo courtesy of Illinois State Athletics

NORMAL, Ill.–The Illinois State Women’s Basketball team defeated Loyola Chicago 68-52 to advance to the semifinal of Hoops in the Heartland. The Birds were propelled by a 29-point performance from Redbird star Juju Redmond and a double-double from senior DeAnna Wilson.

The first quarter of play belonged solely to the Redbirds. After a little bit of back and forth in the first two minutes, the Birds scored 12 unanswered points to take a 16-4 lead out of the first frame. That lead was propelled by a 10-point first quarter from Redmond.

Heading into the second quarter, the Ramblers began to hit their stride offensively cutting their deficit down from twelve to three. Loyola continued the trend that brought them success in the regular season by using depth scoring to crawl back into the contest. Redmond and the rest of the Birds’ offense came alive with about 4 minutes left in the half and with a clutch pair of buckets from Kayel Newland and Kate Bullman–ISU carried a 29-18 lead into the half.

“We just kept preaching stay in the moment. You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low,” Coach Gillespie commented on the Birds’ demeanor during the first half.

The third quarter was certainly a case of deja vu for Redbird fans as the Ramblers used the first seven minutes of the frame to crawl back to within two points of ISU. Then, much like the second period, Redmond found her touch and led the Redbirds back to a nine-point lead heading into the 4th.

In the last quarter, the Birds avoided the early perils that plagued them in the two previous by keeping their foot on the gas and scoring early. The first three frames were a defensive slugfest but the offense opened up for both teams. The Birds ballooned their nine-point 3rd quarter lead into 15 and never let the Ramblers get back to within 12.

Juju Redmond continued to score at an extraordinary pace and got support from secondary scorers DeAnna Wilson and Mary Crompton chipped in to keep the Ramblers at an arm’s length.

“[The team’s] will to win and their desire to compete was on a different level,” said Gillespie.

The Birds will take on the Southern Illinois Salukis Saturday, March 12th. Tip-off is at 1:30pm and WZND’s coverage begins at 1:20pm.