Janae Smith finished with a double double in a win over Butler. (WJBC File Photo)
By WJBC Staff
INDIANAPOLIS – Brianna Puni scored a career-high 17 points, as the Illinois State (8-4) women’s basketball team won its final non-conference game of the season at Butler (7-6), 65-57, Sunday at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Puni was 8-of-11 from the field and brought down six boards in the victory.
Janae Smith recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Jamie Russell also scored in double figures for the Redbirds, netting 12 points and tallied three steals. Illinois State shot 46 percent from the field, while Butler was 35 percent. The Redbirds had the advantage on the boards, pulling down 13 more than the Bulldogs, 45-32.
After a slow start, the Redbirds went on a 5-0 run to take a 7-4 lead with 17:08 to play in the first half. Smith completed an and-one play during the run. Butler struggled from the field and was scoreless for nearly eight minutes, while Illinois State used an 8-2 run to take a six-point advantage, 15-9, with 11:35 to play in the opening half.
ISU was scoreless for over three minutes, but Russell reignited ISU with back-to-back jumpers to increase the Redbirds’ lead to eight, 19-11, with 9:05 remaining in the first. Chloe Nelson sank a three to give the Redbirds an 11-point lead, 27-16, their largest of the game. Five-straight points by the Bulldogs cut ISU’s lead to 27-21 with 3:23 to go before the break, forcing a Redbird timeout. Out of the timeout, Candace Sykes connected on a trey from the top of the key, 30-21. Illinois State went into the locker room with a 10-point advantage over Butler.
At the half, Puni led all scorers with 10 points, connecting on 5-of-6 attempts from the field. Smith added nine points and led all rebounders with six. ISU shot 44 percent in the opening half, while Butler made 29 percent of its shots. The Redbirds out rebounded the Bulldogs, 23-17.
Butler opened the second half with a 12-3 run, cutting Illinois State’s lead to one, 36-35, with 16:53 to play, forcing an ISU timeout. The Bulldogs tied the game, 38-38, at the 15:25 mark off of a three by Taylor Schippers. The Redbirds didn’t connect on a field goal for over four minutes, until Puni scored with 14:33 left in game, 40-38.
The two teams traded baskets, when ISU scored two-straight buckets to take a 48-42 lead with 9:14 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs were quick to respond, as they used a 6-0 run to tie the game, 48-48, with just less than eight minutes left in the game. Illinois State continued to grab leads and Butler responded to tie the game, but a late 8-0 run gave the Redbirds a 65-57 win. Five Redbirds scored during the run.
Illinois State will open Missouri Valley Conference play in Redbird Arena, as it hosts Northern Iowa and Bradley. ISU and UNI will face off Friday at 7 p.m.