The Illinois State University women’s basketball team defeated the University of Illinois Fighting Illini 74-58 on Saturday.
Senior forward Lexi Wallen had a huge game in front of her hometown of Champaign. She scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds while shooting 10 of 14 from the field.
“That kid deserves it,” ISU head coach Kristen Gillespie said. “And what a great story, she is our hardest worker. She has put so much time into her game since she decided to come back for that fifth year ... she probably had 40 people here, it was special.”
At halftime, ISU held a 28-22 lead. The Redbirds led in rebounds 24-8. At that point, senior guard TeTe Maggett already had seven points and Wallen had six points. Junior guard Juliunn Redmond also had six points.
ISU shot 15 for 24 from the field in the second half compared to Illinois’ 13 for 29.
Maggett was the only other Redbird to eclipse double digits. She dropped 21 points alongside six rebounds, eight assists and eight turnovers.
Late in the game, Maggett scored on an isolation that made Gillespie literally throw her hands up in disbelief.
“Those are TeTe’s shots,” Gillespie said. “She has earned the right to take a few of those. She wants the ball in her hands when the game matters, so we’ll let her take those. I’m just glad it went in.”
Illinois’ leading scorer was Petra Holešínská with 16 points. The Illini lost the rebound battle 40 to 17, but still attempted more field goals overall (54 to 52).
Fighting Illini head coach Nancy Fahey spoke about the rebounding disparity.
“Boxing out,” Fahey said. “I think when the shots went up, we weren’t creating any space in front of us ... I just think that their drive to the basket and their crashing was at another level.”
Illinois State shot 52% from the field compared to Illinois’ 37%. ISU also made 6 of 15 three-point shots, while U of I struggled with its 5 for 20 margin.
“I think in the second half we did a better job,” Gillespie said. “We made some shots, TeTe is really hard to guard off the bounce ... Our offense probably really won’t be a well-oiled machine for another month or so ... I thought we moved the ball a lot better than last time.”
ISU’s defense followed the game plan well and prevented easy Illini buckets.
“It looked better,” Gillespie said. “I think down the stretch when we were worried about giving up threes we forgot about, like, guarding the ball, and we gave up some easy layups. But for 35 minutes it was pretty good.”