Redbirds Drop Third-Straight to Salukis, 72-69
March 6, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - A career-high 28 points by sophomore center Nicole Lewis in the penultimate game of the 2007-08 regular season was not enough to propel the Redbirds to victory, as Illinois State (22-6, 12-5 MVC) lost its third-straight game to Southern Illinois (9-18, 5-12 MVC), 72-69, Thursday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Lewis' 28 points led all scorers and marked a season high for points by a Redbird player, as the Wind Lake, Wis., native recorded the second double-double (points-rebounds) of her career, as she also recorded 10 caroms in the game.
Lewis was followed in the scoring column for the Redbirds by junior guard Kristi Cirone, who scored 17 points, which moved her into ninth place on the Illinois State career scoring list with 1,388 career points.
The Salukis were led by Jaymee Sweere's 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field.
"We didn't defend the Salukis' shooters very well (Thursday)," head coach Robin Pingeton said. "Our effort was better than it was in the last two games, but we can't dwell on these losses. We have to focus on Saturday's game against Evansville. I find it hard to believe that we were looking ahead to the next game and didn't take Southern Illinois seriously."
After both teams exchanged turnovers to start the game, Lewis got the Redbirds on the board first with a layup at the 18:30 mark of the first half. Southern Illinois then answered back with a 12-2 run to take a 12-4 lead just after the first media timeout (15:47). Two-straight baskets by the Redbirds cut the Saluki lead down to just four points (12-8). After the Salukis pushed their lead to 18-15, Cirone took control of the Redbird offense with a layup and a key three-pointer to give the Redbirds their first lead of the game, 21-20, at the third media timeout (7:42).
The Salukis continued to put the pressure on the Redbird defense, as following the third media timeout, SIU regained the lead, 27-23, as Sweere poured in two-straight layups. Just as she did to start the game, Lewis kept the Redbirds in the hunt for the lead, as she made a turnaround jumper near the five-minute mark of the half to cut SIU's lead to just two points (27-25). An ensuing jumper by sophomore guard Maggie Krick tied the game (27-27) and forced the Salukis into a timeout.
Having gotten itself into an eight-point hole (12-4) to start the first half, the Redbirds wasted little time scoring to start the second period, as they went up by three points (40-37) off of four points by Lewis and a layup by Krick prior to the 16-minute mark of the half. The Redbirds then went on a 6-0 run to go up by seven (46-39), capped off by another layup by Lewis for her season-high-tying 21st point of the game.
Sweere continued to keep the Salukis in the game, as she hit a three-pointer from the left side with just under 11 minutes left in the game to cut an eight-point Redbird lead down to five points (49-44), and then a another trey by Erin Pauk just before the seven-minute mark of the half cut ISU's lead down to two points at 58-56.
After the Salukis tied the game at 58-58, a running layup by senior guard Tiffany Hudson and a clutch three-pointer by Cirone with three minutes remaining gave the Redbirds some much-needed momentum.
Momentum was key for both teams in the final two minutes of the game, as Southern Illinois' Cortney Sales missed her second shot of a one-and-one at the free throw line. After ISU secured the rebound, Cirone was fouled and went to the line for two free throw attempts with just 39.9 seconds remaining in the game. Cirone nailed both shots to put ISU up by one point (69-68), but then a made jumper by Sweere gave SIU a one-point advantage (70-69), and two-straight made free throws by Pauk secured the Saluki win over the Redbirds.
Illinois State will conclude the 2007-08 regular season Saturday with its home finale, as it plays host to Evansville in a pivotal matchup that will decide which team will be crowned the 2007-08 Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion. Tip-off from Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena is set for 2:05 p.m.