Illinois State's Paige Robinson surveys the court during the Redbirds' 75-73 win over Murray State Friday in the Hoops in the Heartland quarterfinals.

MOLINE, Ill.  Mary Crompton came in clutch as No. 1 seed Illinois State women’s basketball squeaked by No. 8 seed Murray State with a 75-73 win Friday at Vibrant Arena.  

Crompton was 1 of 6 from the field heading into the fourth quarter even though she had open opportunities.

However, Crompton rose to the occasion when ISU needed her most. Crompton hit two 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the game to put the Redbirds in position to win their first matchup of Hoops in the Heartland.  

“Every single [shot] that came off felt good,” Crompton said. “I really had confidence. I know my teammates have a lot of confidence in me. Having their confidence helps me have confidence in myself.” 

The Racers looked to be the aggressor at the start with a full-court press, but it did little to slow down the Redbirds’ offense. ISU took an early 13-8 lead after Ta’Shonna Wright-Gaskins checked into the game and infused the Redbirds with energy.  

“[Ta’Shonna] is our heart and soul,” ISU head coach Kristen Gillespie. “Our team feeds off her [energy]. She does all the things that no one wants to do. We need players like that and that’s why I think this team is special.” 

Behind its three-point shooting, MSU fought back and took a 19-18 lead after ending the opening quarter on a 7-3 run. 

Abbie Aalsma gave ISU a spark on offense in the second quarter with a pair of threes and a layup that gave the Redbirds a three-point lead. 

“Abbie is in a really tough spot because I think Abbie is one of the best freshmen in our league,” Gillespie said. “Abbie happens to play behind [Crompton and Robinson]. That's a tough spot to be in. Before we left after Wednesday’s practice I told her, ‘We can’t do this without you.’ She was a huge difference.” 

As they had in the first quarter, the Racers responded — this time with back-to-back layups from Katelyn Young. Behind 12 first-half points from Paige Robinson  and 11 points from Young — ISU and MSU headed into the locker room tied at 40. 

The Redbirds’ offense kicked into another gear in the third quarter as they were able to grow their lead to double digits. Robinson scored nine of her team-high 21 points in the quarter as the Redbirds outscored the Racers 24-13 in the third quarter.  

Though Robinson was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, she is not worried about personal accolades as ISU looks to make a deep push at Hoops in the Heartland. 

“It doesn’t really mean anything anymore,” Robinson said. “We haven’t won anything yet. I’m not too worried about my individual awards. I’m more worried about winning this tournament. Whatever I’ve got to do for this team, that’s what I’m going to do.” 

Even with ISU’s third-quarter surge, the Racers did not go down without getting a final word in. 

MSU would go on a 10-0 run in a three-and-a-half minute stretch to tie the game at 66 with 3:30 left in the game. The Racers made it difficult on the Redbirds as they would shoot 1-7 in the first six-and-a-half minutes of the fourth. 

Crompton then came alive from deep which gave Maya Wong an opportunity to hit the game-winning free throws with 30 seconds remaining. 

“Maya is a really gifted foul shooter, especially under pressure," Gillespie said. “I knew that if the ball was in her hands, something positive was going to happen. When she got fouled, I knew she was going to make them.”

Kate Bullman scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds while DeAnna Wilson scored 12 and pulled down eight rebounds. Aalsma and Crompton finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.  

JACOB URISH is a Sports Reporter for The Vidette. Urish can be contacted at jauris1@ilstu.edu. Follow Urish on Twitter at @urishjac

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