Evansville Next for Redbirds
With injuries htting the starting lineup, young Redbird players like Brea Banks will have to step up.
With injuries htting the starting lineup, young Redbird players like Brea Banks will have to step up.

Dec. 31, 2005

Normal, Ill. - The largest crowd to watch an Illinois State women's basketball team play in nearly 10 years saw the Redbirds fall to Southern Illinois on Friday. With a quick turnaround before Sunday's 2:05 p.m. tipoff with Evansville, the `Birds will have to turn things around in a hurry.

The crowd of 3,074 was the third largest in Redbird history. The only two larger crowds came in January of the 1995-96 season--a year in which Jill Hutchison's squad won 19 games and earned a bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Redbird coach Robin Pingeton was disappointed enough with her team's performance to apologize to those fans during the post-game media conference. She sees Sunday's game as an opportunity for her team to respond to the fans' loyalty.

"It's gut check time for our kids," said Pingeton, whose Redbirds fell to 5-5 overall, 0-1 in the Valley with its fifth loss in six games.

With their ranks cut to 10 players by the knee injuries to starters Ashley Sandstead and Nicolle Lewis, the `Birds will be trying to regain the defensive form which helped the `Birds hold opponents to 56.8 points per game the first five games of the season. ISU opponents are scoring 78.4 in the past five games. Opponents have improved their field goal percentage from 40.5 to 45.2 during that span.

The `Birds had five players score in double figures against SIU led by freshman Kristi Cirone's 16 points, but that couldn't match SIU's 51 percent field goal shooting.

The Aces, 4-6, 0-1, in the Valley, dropped a 79-69 decision at pre-season Valley favorite Indiana State in a game which featured 69 fouls and 75 free throws. Led by senior Megan Liffick, who averages 16.5 points per game, UE is a team to keep off the backboards. Evansville leads the Valley with 18 offensive rebounds per game.

The Redbirds, No. 30 in the nation in three-point field goals per game before the SIU loss, made just one three-pointer against SIU. Cirone leads the three-point shooters with 21 this season, just seven short of the Redbird freshman record set 10 years ago by Jenny Schmidt. Cirone also leads the `Birds in assists and, with 50 free throws made in just 10 games, is on pace to surpass Sharon Blade's Redbird freshman record of 84 free throws made in the 2000-01 season.

The Redbirds play their second Missouri Valley Conference game of the season at 2:05 p.m. Sunday game against Evansville at Redbird Arena.