NORMAL -- The Illinois State women's basketball team fumbled its way to 16 first-half turnovers then suffered through a damaging drought and 36 percent shooting in the second half Tuesday at Redbird Arena.
Shortcomings aside, the Redbirds stood tall on defense all evening while turning away Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 76-69, before a crowd of 1,516.
"Defense kept us in the game," ISU coach Stephanie Glance said. "We were able to extend the margin a little bit because of our defense."
The Redbirds limited the Panthers to 37 percent shooting in each half. ISU (7-3) has now held six opponents under 38 percent from the field, winning on each occasion.
Milwaukee (3-8) whittled a 16-point second-half deficit to four only to see ISU reclaim control with a 13-2 spurt.
"That game at one point could have gone either way. With a lot of teams it would have gone the other way," said Glance. "But we have a gutsiness and a determination that we battle and we do what we need to do."
Six consecutive Emily Hanley points staked the Redbirds to a 55-39 bulge with 14 minutes remaining. But the Panthers launched a 16-4 spurt that was both ignited and closed by an Anne Breland 3-pointer.
"We know when they get close we've got to lock it up," said ISU point guard Amanda Clifton, who had seven of her team's 17 assists. "We got ourselves in that situation. Now we have to get ourselves out of it. That's what we did."
Katie Broadway snapped a 4 ½-minute Redbird dry spell with a jumper from the wing. ISU then pried open an uncomfortably tight four-point margin with baskets from Shala Jackson, Clifton and Shelton. Clifton's fast-break layup handed the Redbirds a 74-59 lead with 1:57 to play.
"We were just off. We're a very inconsistent basketball team," Milwaukee coach Sandy Botham said. "Their big-time players stepped up and made plays. We just weren't able to match it."
Hanley had the biggest time with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Clifton and Broadway added 11 points each. Lindsay Laur paced Milwaukee with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Breland scored 14.
ISU returns to its home floor Thursday in a 7:05 p.m. Missouri Valley Conference opener against Bradley.