The Illinois State women’s basketball team opened the new year and conference play Saturday at Redbird Arena beating Bradley 64-57.
Kate Bullman put the Redbirds on the board first by converting an and one layup two minutes into the game. Scoring slowed down for both teams in the next few minutes as the Redbirds took an 8-6 lead with four minutes left in the first.
Bradley would go on an 8-0 run to take a 14-8 lead, but ISU closed out the quarter on a 5-0 run to cut the Braves' lead to one at the end of the first.
The Braves expanded on their lead in the second quarter behind a three from Gabi Haack and Caroline Waite to spark a 15-6 run. Kayel Newland responded by hitting back-to-back threes to cut the Braves’ lead to 29-25.
Mary Crompton scored five quick points to give ISU a 30-29 lead with a minute left in the first half. The Redbirds took a 35-32 lead at the half, with Newland and Bullman leading them with nine points each.
Jasmine McGinnis-Taylor opened the second half by scoring eight straight points to give ISU a nine-point lead. A three by Haack would cut ISU's advantage to two, but Crompton responded with back-to-back threes to extend the Redbirds’ lead to eight.
Maya Wong closed the third quarter with a layup to give ISU a 53-43 cushion heading into the final stretch.
The Redbirds’ offense hit a lull midway through the fourth, allowing Bradley to pull within four, behind two threes from Waite and Tatum Koenig.
Nika Dorsey would tie the game up for the Braves at 55, but the Redbirds took back the lead with a three-pointer from Newland and then built off their lead with a Bullman three.
The Redbirds were able to overcome Bradley’s late surge and pulled out with a 64-57 victory. Crompton led the Redbirds with 15 points and McGinnis-Taylor, Bullman and Newland contributed 12 points each, while also combining for 17 of ISU’s 32 total rebounds.
ISU head coach Kristen Gillespie was impressed how her team stepped up with new COVID-19 protocols being reimplemented.
“I could not be more proud of our entire program — and I say program because it really takes a whole village. It was really a challenging week for us with all the new COVID-19 protocols being reintroduced and team members being unable to participate,” Gillespie said. "I think Kayel, as one of our leaders, did a great job reinforcing to everyone that we could win today.”
ISU will be back in action at 5 p.m. Friday when they travel to Indiana to take on Indiana State. The Redbirds are now 1-0 to start conference play and are 5-7 on the season.