ILLINOIS STATE 49, EVANSVILLE 39
ILS (18-8, 10-5 MVC); UE (8-18, 3-12 MVC)
NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State (18-8, 10-5 MVC) remained perfect at home this season with a 13-0 record, which set a new best home-court start in Redbird history, besting Evansville (8-18, 3-12 MVC), 49-39, Thursday night on Doug Collins Court in Redbird Arena.
Shala Jackson became a part of Redbird history, as she recorded her 1,000th point Thursday and ended the night with three points and four rebounds. Amanda Clifton led all scorers with 11 points, while Hannah Spanich recorded a double-double effort with 10 points and 10 boards. Clifton added seven assists and six steals, while Spanich had five steals and three blocks. Marley Hall had a career-high eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and five rebounds. ISU shot 36 percent from the field, while Evansville shot 30 percent.
Illinois State took its largest lead of the game with a free throw by Alexis Jenkins for a 12-point advantage, 22-10, with 4:01 left in the first half. However, the main story of the half came with 38 seconds left before the break, as Jackson scored her 1,000th-career point on a fastbreak layup off of a full-length pass from Clifton, giving the Redbirds a 26-18 lead at the intermission.
The Redbirds held an opponent under 20 points in a half for the seventh time this season with the last time occurring at Evansville (1/29/11) when the Redbirds held the Purple Aces to 13 points in the second half. A strong defensive performance by Illinois State forced 15 Evansville turnovers in the first half, which ISU turned into 12 points. The Redbirds proved to be too much for Evansville to handle down low, as they were 7-of-14 and tallied 18 points in the paint compared to the Purple Aces' six points in the paint.
In the second half, Illinois State hit a dry spell and was scoreless for over six minutes, while Evansville capitalized on the drought using an 11-0 run to cut ISU's lead to one point, 31-30, with 10:30 left in the game.
The Redbirds regained momentum and went on an 8-0 run to increase their lead to nine points, 39-30, with 5:02 remaining in the contest, but the Purple Aces would not give up. Ellerson hit a three for the corner to give life back to Evansville after going scoreless for more than six minutes, 39-33, with 4:26 left in the game. Ellerson sank another shot behind the arc, but was fouled on the play and made her free throw attempt to cut ISU's lead by four points, 43-39, with less than two minutes to play in the game.
Despite their effort late in the game, the Purple Aces would not make a basket the remainder of the game and the Redbirds would secure the 49-39 win with a layup by Clifton.
Illinois State will host Southern Illinois Sunday, Feb. 27 at 2:05 p.m., on Doug Collins Court in Redbird Arena. Sunday's game will be the final-home game of the regular season and will acknowledge the seniors before the contest.