Jamie Russell scored 24 points in Illinois State's 71-57 loss to Evansville. (Photo by B Corbin/WJBC)
By WJBC Staff
NORMAL - Despite Jamie Russell's team-best 24 points, the Illinois State Redbirds (11-6, 3-2 MVC) opened its three-game home stand with a 71-57 Missouri Valley Conference loss to Evansville (5-10, 3-1 MVC) Thursday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
The loss snapped a five-game Illinois State winning streak at Redbird Arena versus Evansville.
The Purple Aces had three players score in double-figures, paced by Mallory Ladd's team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. Evansville limited ISU to 35.5% shooting and made 23-of-27 free throws in the win. Candace Sykes led ISU with six rebounds, but the Redbirds were outrebounded 37-32 in the contest.
Ladd, fresh off a Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week award, netted the first eight points of the night for Evansville as the Purple Aces jumped to an early 8-0 lead. After missing its first five shots, ISU got on the board on a Janae Smith layup with 15:17 to go. Smith would score the next three ISU baskets, cutting the deficit to 13-8 with just over 10 minutes to play in the opening half. It sparked a 12-0 ISU run that included three-straight baskets from Russell, who gave ISU its first lead of the night, 16-13, with 7 minutes to play. The Redbirds built their lead to 18-13 during the scoring run, holding Evansville without a point for over six minutes.
The Purple Aces came back and built their lead to 30-23 out of the break, before Russell's eight-footer put ISU on the board for the first time in the second half.
After an Evansville basket, ISU went on a 7-0 run, capped by Alexi Foley's three-point shot from the right wing, tying the game at 32 with 15:53 to play in regulation. Trailing 35-32, Alexis Jenkins went hard to the basket, making a layup and drawing a foul. Her made free throw knotted the game at 35 with 13:43 to play. Ladd responded with a three-point play to spark an 8-0 Evansville swing with just over 12 minutes to go.
Trailing 45-37, ISU forced a turnover and fed Russell for a fast break layup. Russell then registered a pair of steals and finished with two more layups to make the ISU deficit 45-43 with 9 minutes to play. Chelsea Falkenstein's long three-point basket snapped the ISU run and extended the Purple Aces lead to seven with 7:38 to go. Sykes drilled a three-pointer with 6:11 to go, but Evansville responded with a 8-0 run to build its largest lead of the game at 61-46.
Facing their largest deficit of the game, Russell's steal and layup sparked a 4-0 ISU run to cut the Purple Aces lead to 11, 61-50, but it was as close as ISU would get as Evansville made 22-of-25 second half free throw attempts, pulling away for a 71-57 victory.
Illinois State will continue its home stand when it plays host to Southern Illinois for Pack the Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19, with tipoff slated for 4:05 p.m.
Listen to the game on WJBC AM 1230 and WJBC.com.