Starting off the season with a win is what many expected of the Illinois State University Redbirds, as they defeated the Truman State Bulldogs 87-60.
Facing a division three school like Truman State may have had the Redbirds overlooking them in the beginning of the game, as the ’Birds were losing the game throughout the majority of the first quarter. The Bulldogs focused on using their height advantage as their game plan.
Getting the ball into the post was Truman State’s go-to, but with the Redbirds trying to limit the ball inside, Truman State had several open shooters outside the arc. The lackluster play irritated head coach Kristen Gillespie on the sideline, calling a timeout with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Fighting to stay within reach of the Bulldogs, the speedy duo of TeTe Maggett and Juliunn Redmond slashed their way in the driving lanes, being the primary scorers for the ’Birds in the first. Even with the two players hot, the ’Birds trailed the Bulldogs at the end of the first quarter 16-14.
The second quarter started with the Redbirds going on a 12-2 run through the first four minutes of the quarter. Maggett turned it up a notch as she added 12 points to the stat sheet in the second quarter alone, getting multiple layup opportunities.
Also finding success in the lane, Redmond picked apart the defense with a steal and an easy layup, just exhausting the Bulldogs.
Ferocious defense was the mindset for the Redbirds throughout the second, picking many pockets and blocking a couple of shots through the 10-minute period. Megan Talbot recorded four steals through the first half, not far behind her Paige Saylor and Redmond had two for the game as well.
“When we were locked in, I thought we did cause some issues for them offensively. We can’t pick and choose when we really feel like guarding, and I thought we did that a little bit tonight. This is the first game, we are going to get better, this is a pride thing. It is built in our program's DNA, we are always going to defend, we are always going to rebound, I don’t think we did a great job,” Gillespie said.
“The great thing about defense is it’s something you can control, it’s an effort thing, it’s toughness, and we’ll get there.”
There was a complete turnaround for the Redbirds after Gillespie laid into her team in the first quarter. The play dramatically changed for the ’Birds in the second as they outscored the Bulldogs 26-11 at the end of the second quarter.
With ISU leading at the half, Truman State head coach Theo Dean changed up the game plan for his team.
More defensive pressure was being placed on Maggett, as at times she received triple-teaming efforts forcing bad shots. Maggett adapted quickly, finding teammates wide open on plays where she was double or triple teamed.
With Maggett receiving very few good looks from the field, Lexi Wallen had the chance to break out, finding herself unguarded in the paint during the second half.
Play out of the paint proved to be huge for ISU. The ’Birds accounted for62 points in the paint out of their 87 scored, and with a lackluster 2-15 from the three-point line, the paint was where the ’Birds wanted to be.
“Our offense, we always talk about paint touches, whether it’s penetration or post touches, that’s a huge point of emphasis for us. I think it’s crazy if you look at our stats when we get paint touches how our statistics, our shooting percentage rise, so that’s always a point of emphasis,” Gillespie said. “We didn’t shoot the three very well today, but we still managed to score 87 points. We are going to have games like that.”
ISU continued to extend the lead in the fourth quarter, as players who normally support the team from the bench received playing time.
One of those players, senior Frannie Corrigan, immediately got a round of applause the moment she entered the game from the crowd. With 40 seconds to play, Corrigan hit a driving layup that sent not only the crowd but the Redbird bench into a frenzy.
As the clock struck zero, ISU was able to finish off Truman State 87-60.