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Women’s Basketball Defeats Saint Xavier In Season Opener

Written by on December 6, 2020

Photo courtesy of goredbirds.com

NORMAL- An empty Redbird Arena set the stage for the return of Illinois State’s women’s basketball team, dropping Saint Xavier 61-48 in the team’s 2020-21 season debut. The raucous fake crowd noise and supportive cutouts made for an atmosphere that was anything but normal, yet instead hopeful. 

“I am so thrilled that our team got to compete today. Tomorrow it would have been nine months since we played at Indiana State, and you could tell in the first half it had been nine months since we have played,” said Head coach Kirsten Gillespie. 

The Redbirds did have their struggles against Saint Xavier, but never found themselves trailing throughout the entirety of the game. 

After having their first three games canceled against Northern Illinois, Tulsa and Dayton, the Redbirds came into this game after only a few practices beginning on Thursday. Rust was built up, and Gillespie made note of that. 

We have had two and a half days of practice over the last two weeks. We we’re a little out of shape, a little rusty. We just don’t have everything in our offensive arsenal,” said Gillespie. 

Crompton echoed Gillespie, commenting on how she feels after having little team to prepare ahead of the season opener. 

“This whole journey has been just really different. We have had to throw in a lot of extra conditioning sessions in-season, which we normally leave for more out of season,” said Crompton. 

“The coaches have done the best they can to try and balance the aspect of ‘we need to be in-game shape and also we have to be fresh for the game,’ so legs are doing well, but it’s going to be a constant journey with that off and on this year.” 

The Cougars continued to claw back into the game after several Redbird runs, but a 17-1 run through the final 5:41 of the third quarter put an end to any antics Saint Xavier had planned for any the fourth. The Redbirds followed behind Crompton in the fourth quarter, as she sank three consecutive threes early. 

Crompton led the Redbirds in scoring with a new career-high 20 points, 18 of those points coming from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard wasn’t the only one having success from three as the team as a whole shot 13-29. 

Gillespie had high praise for Crompton, having said on multiple occasions ahead of the season that she would have a fantastic year. 

“I think Mary is the best shooter, I would pick Mary over any other shooter in the country. She is an elite level shooter, but she is such an unselfish player,” said Gillespie. 

Juliunn Redmond and Terrion Moore added 16 points to the Redbirds win. Redmond started off strong with eight points in the first quarter, while Moore found her stride late that helped extend the lead. 

In the blowout victory, all Redbirds dressed for action saw the floor. Coach Gillespie says that the plan is for now to use the added depth since the season just started. 

“I think we have a little more depth. Until we are at that game level of conditioning, we are going to have to sub a little more frequent.”  

The Redbirds are back in action on Dec. 13 when they travel to Western Illinois. Coach Gillespie has spoken of adding a non-conference game over the span of the next two weeks, after having three games canceled to start the season. 

Jake Fogal contributed to this article.

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