The Illinois State women’s basketball team came out with a victory in overtime against Southern Illinois during the annual “Play 4 Kay” game, defeating the Salukis 68-63 yesterday afternoon. Southern’s Mercedes Griffin hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the Salukis and the Redbirds into overtime.
Senior Chloe Nelson led the Redbirds with 18 points, while freshman Kayln Gebhardt set her career-best with 11.
“Southern Illinois played a great game and battled until the end … I credit our fight tonight and the fact that we weren’t going to go down on our home court,” ISU head coach Barb Smith said.
ISU started the game off with a 4-0 lead. Nelson put up seven of ISU’s first 12 points, before Southern came within one, 13-12. SIU hit a three-pointer and a jumper to give the Salukis a little bit of momentum, but Zenobia Bess answered with a shot of her own to give ISU a 17-15 lead.
The ’Birds extended their lead, 22-15, when they made five-straight free throws. Both teams traded baskets, but ISU left the court for halftime with a 28-21 lead. The Redbirds shot 31 percent from the field in the first half and grabbed six steals during the first 20 minutes.
To open the second half, the Salukis went on a run to score six-straight points, while ISU was unable to make a basket for almost four minutes, narrowing ISU’s lead to 28-27.
“We’ve got to keep our defensive intensity up and keep attacking on offense … ” Nelson said.
A steal by Katy Winge allowed ISU to put the score at 30-27. The ’Birds then took a run of their own, 9-0, with Gebhardt scoring seven of the points. ISU held the lead at 39-32 when the Salukis called timeout.
Mackenzie Freeman and Winge both hit treys to help give ISU a 15-point advantage. After SIU’s timeout, the Salukis battled back with 14-straight points to put them right behind ISU, 51-50. A Redbird timeout was called right after the Salukis took the lead by one, 54-53. ISU then grabbed the lead back, 59-56, with a free throw by Winge and back-to-back jumpers and an and-one play from Nelson. Southern’s Griffin then hit a three at the buzzer to force the teams into overtime.
ISU took a four-point lead in overtime, 67-63, with one minute left on the clock. SIU was unable to come up with baskets and the Redbirds won, 68-63.
“It’s emotional around this game, it’s always an emotional game and that may be part of our shooting issues. There could be people fighting for their lives in cancer, while we try to preach to our players just to fight for the games,” Smith added.
On Friday, the Redbirds came up short against Edwardsville, taking the loss 75-62. Nelson was the only Redbird to score in the double-digits with 15 points. Freeman put up eight points, while Winge had 11 rebounds. The ’Birds shot 33 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range.
The ’Birds will take the road to Wichita State at 7:05 p.m. on Friday to face the Shockers.