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’Birds fumble second half, fall to Wichita State

Andrew S. Avitt/Photographer: Chloe Nelson led the Redbirds in scoring against Wichita with 19 points.

Andrew S. Avitt/Photographer: Chloe Nelson led the Redbirds in scoring against Wichita with 19 points.

Despite keeping pace with Wichita State through the first half, the Illinois State women’s basketball team was unable to keep their momentum after heading into the locker room.  Wichita State (15-2, 6-0 MVC) remains undefeated in conference play after scoring 38 points in the paint and pulling down 41 rebounds, ultimately topping the Redbirds (4-12, 3-3 MVC), 74-58.

“That’s the No. 1 team in the conference right now, and I thought that coming in here would be a big test for us coming off the weekend we just had.  I was proud of our players, just battling and being aggressive, and taking ownership in their own play,” ISU head coach Barb Smith said. “It wasn’t the outcome we wanted but we grew in this game — like we’ve grown in every single game we’ve played. We’ll get better from this, but I’m just proud of our players for not giving up until the final buzzer.”

Chloe Nelson delivered 19 points on the evening, 15 of which came in the second half. Two other Redbirds, Stekara Hall and Lindsay Smith, also scored in the double-digits. Hall added 18 of her own points, plus five rebounds. Smith set a personal best by sinking four three-pointers and five field goals to tie her career high 14 points. Nelson also added five boards.

While Wichita State shot 50 percent from the field, Illinois State scored just 34 percent of its shots. Both teams started off slow offensively, with ISU failing to put up its first two points until the 15:41 mark in the first half. After trading points from the paint and behind the arch, the ’Birds held an early advantage, 10-8, before suffering through a scoreless five minutes. Octavia Crump got a second-chance layup Crump got a second-chance layup that would put ISU at a one-point advantage, 13-12, with 8:25 left in the first half.

The Shockers then went on their own scoreless five minute run, but a three-point play put Wichita State into the lead 15-13, just before a 7-point run which would stretch the ISU deficit to nine points.  After a quick timeout, the ‘Birds rallied for five points, culminated by a half-court buzzer beater from Smith that brought fans to their feet to end the half.

But trailing by just four points at halftime, the Redbirds failed to capitalize on the momentum coming off the half-court shot, and allowed Wichita State to take control.  The Shockers opened the half with an 11-0 run with ISU missing its first nine shot attempts.

“I think our shot selection at that time was not the best. We took some bad shots and kind of fed them more possessions, and they were able to come down and get in the paint,” Coach Smith said. “Defensively, we weren’t quite in the gaps the way we were supposed to be.  That little stretch hurt us, but the rest of the game the team played very well.”

Hall scored nine-straight points for the Redbirds to make the score 51-39 halfway through the second half, and Nelson scored 13 of ISU’s last 15 points to bring the ‘Birds within twelve with just over a minute to play.  Despite the team’s efforts, they came too little too late—the final score Wichita State 74, Illinois State 58.

The ‘Birds will take one MVC foe Missouri State in the “We Back Pat” game, tonight at 7:05, on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.

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