NORMAL — Illinois State senior guard Chloe Nelson understands the value of practice.

She also knows the thrill of playing basketball games.

“The first game of my senior season, I can’t be more happy at this time,” Nelson said of Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. ex-hibition game against Division II Northwest Missouri State at Redbird Arena. “The whole team is excited. When you get to a game, that’s what you’ve been practicing for.”

The Redbirds open their first season under Coach Barb Smith with an emphasis on up tempo offense and in-tense defense.

“It comes at a perfect time,” said Smith. “We are ready for a game. But a game that doesn’t count is perfect because we still have a long ways to go. There is a lot of growth happening, a lot of good things happening.”

Nelson and guard Alison Seberger are the only two seniors on an ISU team that finished 24-11 last season but lost its top four scorers.

“You’re going to see an exciting style of play, very fast paced,” Nelson said. “We’re really going to focus on defense and pressuring the ball.”

Smith indicated her starters will be “the most ready starting lineup we have at this point. That is not even determined yet. There is still healthy competition going on.”

Located in Maryville, Mo., Northwest Missouri State posted a 15-13 record last season. The Bearcats’ top re-turning player is 6-foot-3 junior Maggie Marnin, who averaged 11.2 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Michael Smith is the team’s first-year coach.

“It’s a brand new situation for them and a brand new situation for us,” said Barb Smith.

ISU opens the regular season Nov. 13 at Northern Kentucky.

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