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Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Women's Basketball
Illinois State 68, Creighton 60
ST. CHARLES, Mo. (Courtesy ISU Media Relations) For the first time since 2005, Illinois State will play for the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Women's Basketball Tournament championship. The No. 1 Redbirds (25-6) defeated No. 4 Creighton (20-11) in the semifinals, 68-60, on Saturday, March 15, at The Family Arena. The win was ISU's first against Creighton in the conference tournament (1-3) and marked the third time that the Redbirds beat a team in the tournament after being swept in the regular season. ISU improved to 7-4 all-time in semifinal games.
Sophomore forward Ashleen Bracey recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Her 16 boards set an ISU single-game conference tournament record, besting Marla Maupin's 15 against Eastern Illinois in 1983, and were tied for the sixth-most in conference tournament history. Her 12 offensive rebounds also broke the school's single-game conference tournament record.
Sophomore guard Maggie Krick led ISU with 15 points, the most she has scored in a conference tournament game. She also had five rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Kenyatta Shelton had nine points and nine rebounds for the third time in the last four games and had three blocks for the second-consecutive game. Junior guard Kristi Cirone added nine points and four assists. Cirone was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line, making her one foul shot shy of tying the Illinois State all-time record. Senior guard Tiffany Hudson scored in double-figures for the second time this tournament with 12 points and added four assists.
The offensive pace was slow to start the game with the score tied, 4-4, at the first media timeout. Hudson provided all the ISU scoring with a layup and two free throws. Bracey sparked the Redbird offense with mid-range jumpers on three-consecutive possessions to give ISU a one-point edge, 10-9. The lead changed hands twice after each team made a pair of free throws and ISU stayed on top, 12-11, with 11:47 to go in the half.
Illinois State's lead twice reached three points, but the game continued to be tight and low-scoring. Creighton scored four-straight points to take a one-point lead, but Cirone nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Redbirds back on top, 19-17. After a Creighton jumper tied the game once again, Cirone made a driving jumper and Hudson canned a three-pointer from the left corner to give ISU its biggest lead of the half, 24-19. Krick scored ISU's last four points to maintain the five-point cushion at halftime.
The second half started just as slowly as the first with each team recording one field goal after nearly five minutes of play. Krick made her first three-point field goal, giving her seven-straight points, and ISU led by five, 33-28, with 15:23 remaining. Creighton managed to pull within a basket, but the Redbirds opened up a 9-1 run to take a 10-point lead, 43-33. Shelton scored five-consecutive points during the stretch, including a three-point play that gave the `Birds the double-digit advantage.
ISU and Creighton traded baskets on the next eight possessions and the Redbirds stayed ahead, 51-42, with 8:55 left. Creighton center Kristina Voss completed a three-point play to cut the deficit down to six points, but perhaps more importantly sent junior guard Kristi Cirone to the bench with her fourth foul. Senior center Lashawn Johnson answered on the ensuing possession with a three-point play of her own as she was fouled on a fastbreak layup and nailed the free throw after a media timeout to keep the Redbirds ahead by nine. Freshman guard Shala Jackson made a transition layup after a Creighton miss and ISU led by 11, 56-45.After the Bluejays went on an 8-3 spurt to pull within six, 59-53, Bracey had a layup off an offensive rebound in the middle of the key. Cirone followed with three free throws to give ISU its biggest lead of the game, 65-53. The Redbirds finished the contest with three free throws in the final minute.
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