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Redbirds Fly Past Aces, Will Face Panthers in MVC Second Round

Written by on March 14, 2024

MOLINE, Ill. – Shot takers shoot double-digit shots in the first quarter. Shot makers hit all but one.

The Illinois State Redbirds women’s basketball team returned to the bench Thursday against Evansville after ten minutes up 23-11, and never looked back on their way to a 85-64 win. They shot 9-10 in the first, and 60.8% on the afternoon. Head Coach Kristen Gillespie, following the opening win of her seventh Missouri Valley Conference tournament, credited a week of positivity.

“Shots going in, there’s a bit of a physiological element to that.” Gillespie said, “we were just really positive this week, we got a lot of shots up. We just said we are going to be shot makers this week. Not shot takers, shot makers. That’s the key to win a game, or multiple games, in this tournament.”

The twelve-seeded Purple Aces struggled to keep up with the five-seeded Redbirds all game, much in part to a tandem effort of ferocious flying offense and lockdown defense from Illinois State. Cultivating a large lead throughout encouraged the Redbirds to use a variety of their deep lineup. Upperclassmen Maya Wong and DeAnna Wilson started the game and eventually left it with double-digit points; Freshman Brooke Coffey just missed out on the double-double with ten points and eight boards.

The Redbirds continue on to face Northern Iowa Friday, with a split sample pool this season against the Panthers, 1-1. This comes with a fair share of takeaways for Gillespie.

“We are going to see a lot of defenses,” Gillespie, scouting UNI, said. “Our ability to handle pressure and make open shots will be, first and foremost, very important.”

That said, if Freshman Shannon Dowell’s team-leading 14 points are any indication, the best is yet to come.

“I feel like it will help.” Dowell said, “to be honest, when I was out there [today], the basket just looked so far away. My depth perception was off at first. Now, I feel much better about tomorrow…I might shoot some threes or something.”

The Redbirds will face two-seeded Panthers at 2:30 P.M. Friday, with broadcast coverage on WZND starting ten minutes beforehand. You can tune in on 103.3 FM or wznd.com.