Coach Stephanie Glance's Redbirds squeaked past SIU on Thursday. (Photo By B Corbin/WJBC)
By WJBC Staff
CARBONDALE - Brianna Puni tied a career-high 17 points, as she led the Illinois State women's basketball team (16-8, 8-4 MVC) in its 71-68 victory over Missouri Valley Conference rival Southern Illinois (4-18, 1-10 MVC) Thursday night at SIU Arena. Puni scored 14 points in the second half.
Jamie Russell netted 14 points, and Alexis Jenkins added 13. Janae Smith led the Redbirds with 10 boards, while Russell had four steals. Chloe Nelson had three steals, while Jenkins recorded two take aways. ISU shot 40 percent from the field, while SIU made 43 percent of its attempts. The Redbirds had 43 rebounds, while the Salukis grabbed 33 boards.
The Redbirds and the Salukis traded points early in the game, until ISU went on a 6-0 run to take a 17-12 advantage. Southern Illinois was scoreless for over six minutes, until Dyana Pierre hit a jumper and triggered a 5-0 Saluki run, pulling Southern Illinois within one point, 23-22, with 3:48 to play, forcing an Illinois State timeout. The Redbirds ended the half on a 4-0 run, heading into the locker room with a nine-point lead, 36-27.
At the half, Russell led all scorers with 10 points. She was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line and had four steals. Jenkins added eight points for the Redbirds, while Smith had eight boards. ISU shot 39 percent from the field, while SIU made 40 percent of its shots. The Redbirds had the advantage on the boards with 24 rebounds, while the Salukis had 12.
Southern Illinois used an 8-2 run to cut Illinois State's lead to four points, 41-37, early in the second half. Puni had four-straight points for the Redbirds, as ISU took a seven-point advantage, 47-40, with 14:41 to play. ISU was scoreless for over four minutes, until Puni made a layup to give the Redbirds a six-point lead, 50-44, with 10:36 to play.
Illinois State went on a 7-0 run, taking a nine-point advantage, 59-48. During the run, Sykes connected on three free throws, after getting fouled on a shot attempt beyond the arc. The Salukis regained momentum, as they went on an 11-3 run late in the game, cutting the Redbirds' lead to three, 62-59. Puni scored six-straight points for the Redbirds, giving ISU a 68-61 lead with 39 seconds to play. Southern Illinois missed a last second shot, as Illinois State held on to win, 71-68.
ISU will return to the court to take on Evansville. The Redbirds and the Purple Aces will play Saturday at 5 p.m. Listen to the game on WJBC AM 1230 and FM 93.7.