|’Birds claw Bears in 81-60 victory|
|Written by Todd Marver, Senior Staff|
|Sunday, 03 March 2013 17:38|
Illinois State (20-8, 12-4 Missouri Valley Conference) came away with an 81-60 victory against Missouri State Sunday afternoon as part of the Senior Day festivities at Redbird Arena, in which five seniors — Alexis Jenkins, Candace Sykes, Jamie Russell, Megan Grace and Jaz Green — were recognized prior to tip off.
“I thought the seniors finished out their guaranteed careers at Redbird Arena on a big note in a great way,” ISU head coach Stephanie Glance said. “I’m very happy for all of them. We called out their stats in the locker room and congratulations on a great day to the seniors.”
The victory extended the Redbirds’ winning streak to seven games. With the win, ISU got vindication for a 91-76 loss to MSU on Feb. 3 in Springfield, Mo. The loss to the Bears was the ’Birds last defeat this season.
“I think we had a different focus,” Sykes said. “We played probably our worst game of the year at Missouri State. We wanted to come out and prove a point and avenge ourselves.”
Sophomore forward Janae Smith was one of four Redbirds to post double figure scoring efforts, as she finished with a double-double registering 12 points and 12 rebounds. Sykes led the way with 22 points, while Russell and Jenkins added 17 points and 11 points, respectively.
ISU opened the contest scoring the first five points of the game to take a 5-0 lead via a Sykes three-pointer and a Jenkins bucket, just over two and a half minutes into the contest.
After MSU scored its first basket of the game to make it 5-2, the Redbirds continued to stretch their lead due to a 19-0 run, thanks to Russell’s seven points, Sykes’ five points, Jenkins’ three points and two points apiece from Smith and sophomore forward Brianna Puni, to grab a 24-2 advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
ISU extended its advantage to 30 points by outscoring the Bears, 14-6 via Foley’s five points, two points apiece by Jenkins, Sykes, Grace and Puni and a free throw from Smith to take a 38-8 lead with 4:29 left in the opening half.
The Redbirds took their largest lead of the first half at 35 points, 47-12, thanks to Russell’s four points, a Sykes’ three-pointer and a Smith basket. ISU headed into the halftime break with a 47-15 advantage.
The ’Birds came out of the locker room red hot, tallying 10 consecutive points due to eight points from Sykes and a basket by Jenkins, to take their largest lead of the contest at 42 points, 57-15, with 16:17 left in the game.
MSU responded with a 12-0 run to cut its deficit to 30 points, 57-27, with 13:45 remaining in the second half. With the Redbirds still holding a 30-point advantage, 67-37, the Bears registered nine straight points to slice even further into the ISU lead to make it a 21-point margin, 67-46, with 7:05 left in the second half.
MSU outscored the ’Birds, 10-5, to get within 16 points, 72-56, with 2:37 remaining in the game, but that is as close as the Bears could get. ISU responded with a 7-0 run via Smith’s three points and two points apiece by Jenkins and Russell to take a 79-56 lead with 1:10 left in the contest. The Redbirds went on to win, 81-60.
“The team played probably their best half of the year in the first half,” Glance said. “I think we are playing really well right now. Everybody played, which is very unusual in a conference game this late in the season to be able to do that. With different rotations, you are susceptible to a letdown, like in the second half, but when you win by 21 points on your home court on Senior Day and everybody played, that’s a really great trade off to me.”
The Redbirds return to action in their second-to-last game of the regular season against Bradley at 6 p.m. on Thursday in Peoria, Ill.