NORMAL — Having witnessed one too many times an Illinois State player seemingly secure a rebound only to have it ripped from their hands, Redbird coach Stephanie Glance called an early second-half timeout Sunday at Redbird Arena.
“It was the same message as it was at halftime. We have to be tougher than that,” Glance said. “When that happened again, it was a fired up timeout. You’re underestimating your opponent when you let somebody take the ball from you like that.”
The Redbirds tightened their grip on the ball and the outcome with 10 straight points en route to an 81-65 Missouri Valley Conference win over Bradley before a crowd of 1,611.
“I thought when the team came back on the floor they responded really well. We went on a run and Bradley had to call a timeout,” said Glance. “Bradley was exactly what we thought they would be, very scrappy and very aggressive.”
ISU (10-4, 2-0 in the MVC) stretched its winning streak to a season-long four while vanquishing the Braves for the 16th consecutive time. Bradley has not won at Redbird Arena since 2003.
Bradley (6-7, 0-2) had pulled within 47-41 on a Michelle Young rebound basket.
After the timeout, Jamie Russell scored from the baseline, Alexis Jenkins nailed a 3-pointer and Candace Sykes recorded a driving basket and a 3-pointer for a 16-point Redbird advantage with 15:51 to play.
ISU then went over six minutes without a point as Bradley reeled off nine points, seven on free throws.
But the Redbirds regrouped again with two Chloe Nelson free throws, a Janae Smith 3-point play and a pair of Maddie Oliver inside buckets to reestablish a 16-point cushion that would not slip below 12 the rest of the way.
Smith scored 15 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, grabbed 13 rebounds and handed out a career-high six assists.
“I needed to pass the ball. That was the major thing,” Smith said. “I noticed they were doubling me, and I needed to find the open man. When you pass the ball, it opens it up for everybody.”
Russell added 18 points, six rebounds and four steals while connecting on several perimeter jumpers that have eluded her of late.
“I had a few talks with a couple of the coaches before the game,” said Russell. “Follow through, rise up on your shot. That’s what I focused on and it works.”
Sykes chipped in 17 points and eight rebounds as the Redbirds shot 43 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Braves, 50-42.
“You can’t give their big three everything they need and everything they want and come away with a win,” Bradley coach Michael Brooks said of Smith, Russell and Sykes. “We didn’t hold any of them under their average.
“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do defensively and that’s the result.”
ISU never trailed and held early leads of 12-2 and 21-8. The Braves crept back within 36-32 before the Redbirds pushed back out to a 44-36 halftime margin.
Shronda Butts topped Bradley with 16 points and Kelsey Budd had 10.