On a career night from sophomore guard Stekara Hall, who racked up almost half of her team’s points Friday night, the Illinois State women’s basketball team (6-14, 5-5 MVC) sealed a late victory over Indiana State (12-9, 7-3 MVC). After a back-and-forth shootout through the first half, Illinois State was able to overcome an eight-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Sycamores, 53-50. Topping Missouri Valley Conference opponents in two of their last three match ups, the Redbirds now even out in conference play going into the final leg of the season.
“We knew this would be a tight game — [Indiana State is a] very good basketball team, very well coached. It was neck and neck for a long time and at about the eight-minute mark our team decided to start making some plays,” head coach Barb Smith said. “We have talked about making plays down the stretch. And for us, for the second half of this conference play, we want to protect our court more. We want to start playing better at home. And we did that tonight.”
Hall led all scorers on the night with 26 points, her career-best, while Chloe Nelson added 10 for the Redbirds. After shooting just 26 percent from the field in the first half, the ’Birds improved significantly in the latter half of the game, shooting 10-for-25 (40 percent). ISU outscored the Sycamores 33-27 over the game’s final minutes and grabbed the comeback win with mere seconds on the clock.
“I didn’t even know I had that many points, I was just trying to make plays,” Hall said. “Not necessarily for me but for whoever could get open.”
Illinois State trailed by nine points late in the second half when Octavia Crump drove in a layup to break a scoring drought that lasted over five minutes. Hall tossed in a layup of her own and Lindsay Smith sank two free throws to bring the ’Birds to within two, 43-41. Shortly after the six-minute mark, Nelson drew a foul and sank one to bring the score to within a point.
Indiana State’s Stephanie Wittman missed on a jumper, leading to a successful one from Hall to put the Redbirds on top for their first lead of the second half, 44-43. Marina Laramie answered back with a jumper of her own to break the 9-0 run from ISU. After that, the Sycamores charged onto a run of their own, going 6-0 and regaining the advantage, 49-43, with 3:48 to play. Wittman was the only Sycamore to score in double-digits Friday night with 10 points.
Crump broke the streak with a layup followed by a rebound from Katy Winge. On the new possession, Hall hit a layup and caught a foul to complete the three-point play and tied the game at 49 with just over two minutes left in regulation. Hall was fouled again trying to grab a defensive rebound and used the double bonus to sink two free throws and advantage ISU by two with 90 seconds to play.
With the clock winding down, Nelson drew a foul herself to put the ’Birds up by another point, 52-50, before the Sycamores’ Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir missed a jumper from the top of the key. After a pair of unsuccessful attempts to steal it on the inbound, the game finally came to an end with ISU on top, 53-50.
An enthusiastic 826 fans were in attendance to celebrate the win at Redbird Arena.
The Redbirds will play at home Friday when they take on Evansville.