Redbirds Shoot Past IUPUI In WNIT Opener
Candace Sykes
Candace Sykes

March 21, 2013

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NORMAL, Ill. - After trailing for most of the first half, Illinois State outscored IUPUI, 15-4, to start the second half en route to a 63-47 first-round Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) victory Thursday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds advance to play at Kansas State in the second round, Monday, March 25.

Illinois State shot 56.8 percent from the field and 90.0 percent from the free throw line, while the Jaguars were limited to 36.5 percent shooting and a 43.8 percent clip from the foul stripe. Janae Smith and Candace Sykes led ISU with 15 points each, while Jamie Russell contributed 12. DeAirra Goss netted 19 points to lead IUPUI.

IUPUI jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, as the Redbirds committed five turnovers in the first three minutes. The Jaguars capitalized with three layups - all off of turnovers - to take the early advantage. Russell first put Illinois State on the board with a baseline jumper at the 16:52 mark. Sykes later pulled the Redbirds within one on a three-pointer, and then with 10:54 remaining in the first half, Smith's jumper gave ISU its first lead, 11-10, on the following possession.

The two teams exchanged baskets until Sykes sunk a three-pointer to give Illinois State a 23-20 advantage, capping an 8-3 run, at the 3:32 mark. IUPUI then responded with five-unanswered points to regain a two-point lead. However, Alexis Jenkins dished a pass to a cutting Octavia Crump who scored a layup to tie the game, 25-25, at halftime. The Redbirds committed 15 first-half turnovers, but shot 58.8 percent from the field while holding IUPUI to 33.3 percent.

Briana Puni netted back-to-back jumpers to start the second half, and Smith added a layup to increase ISU's lead to 31-27 in the first three minutes. Puni's second shot sparked a 13-2 run over the next seven minutes to propel the Redbirds to a 40-29 advantage with 11:36 remaining. Illinois State's defense held the Jaguars to 0-for-5 from the field during the stretch. Goss stopped the streak with an IUPUI jumper, but the Redbirds responded with seven more unanswered points to pull ahead, 47-31.

The Jaguars pulled within 13 points on a Kerah Nelson three-pointer with 2:20 remaining, but that was as close as IUPUI got. The Redbirds ended the game on a 6-3 run to secure the 16-point victory.

Illinois State will now face Kansas State in the second round of the WNIT, after the Wildcats won their first-round matchup against Texas Southern, 72-44, Thursday evening. Redbird fans may call the Redbird Arena Ticket Office at (309) 438-8000 beginning Friday morning for ticket information. Tickets will need to be purchased at the door at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

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