NORMAL, Ill. – Missouri State women’s basketball improved to 19-5 (10-3 MVC) on the season with a crucial 75-69 victory on the road at Illinois State (15-10, 11-3 MVC).
Missouri State was dominant on both sides of the ball in the first half.
After transfer Jennifer Ezeh scored the first basket of the night, Illinois State’s Mary Crompton hit a three-pointer to put the Redbirds ahead early, but the rest of the quarter belonged to the Lady Bears.
Senior Abi Jackson tied the game at 5-5 with a free throw, then the Lady Bears locked in for a 10-0 run for a nearly 5:00 minute span. The run was highlighted by a Paige Rocca three ball immediately out of the media timeout. Illinois State would gather four free throws across the quarter, but a four-point Ifunanya Nwachukwu run to close out the period have MSU an 18-7 lead after the first 10 minutes.
Missouri State held Illinois State to just one made field goal and to nine percent shooting from the field in the opening quarter to make a statement early in a crucial conference game.
The Redbirds found a bit more offense in the second quarter, but the Lady Bears were able to stay out in front for the entirety of the second period.
Jackson opened the second quarter with a jumper to extend the MSU lead to 13 points. After back-to-back buckets from Mya Bhinhar and Brice Calip to extend the Lady Bear lead to the largest of the half at 16 points, Illinois State put together a 7-0 run to make it a 27-18 game at the 1:31 mark.
After Illinois State cut the MSU lead to eight points, Jackson hit a jumper with just :04 left to give the Lady Bears a 10-point, 31-21, advantage at the half.
Jackson paced the Lady Bears in the first half with nine points, followed by Nwachukwu with six points and a team-high four first-half rebounds.
In the second half, the Redbirds came out and punched quickly. The Redbirds opened with a 7-2 run to cut the Lady Bear lead to five points. The third quarter was an almost even battle as both teams found a rhythm on offense. Illinois State owned the narrow period advantage, outscoring MSU 24-22.
The bright spot of the third period for the Lady Bears and the MSU offense was Mariah White. White’s first basket of the third was a three-pointer to give the Lady Bears some breathing room, as the Redbirds had cut the lead to two points. Later, White went on to have a 5-0 run on her own to put the Lady Bears ahead by eight points with under two minutes to go in the third quarter.
Overall, White had 10 points on 3-for-3 shooting from the field as the Lady Bears looked to close out the game in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Bears swapped baskets to begin the final quarter with Illinois State once again closing the gap to five points. Missouri State quickly answered with a 6-0 run sparked by a White jumper and fast-break layup to push the lead back to 11 points. On back-to-back-to-back scoring possessions, the Lady Bears answered Illinois State to extend the lead back to a 13-point advantage each time.
Illinois State had one final rally in them, as they reeled off an 8-0 over a 2:00 span to shrink the Lady Bear advantage to five points with 1:30 remaining in the game. However, the Lady Bear offense took advantage of forcing the Redbirds to foul and converted six free throws in the final 1:24 to secure the 75-69 victory.
White finished with a team-high 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, in addition to going 6-for-9 from the charity stripe and grabbing three rebounds. Jackson scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds to go with four blocks on the night against the Redbirds. Nwachukwu scored a career-high 11 points, while Calip dropped 10 points and dished out a season-high seven assists.
Missouri State will be back in action on Sunday, Feb. 20 as they travel to Bradley. First tip against the Braves is set for 2 p.m.