NORMAL — As strange as it might seem the Illinois State women’s basketball team seized control without scoring a point Thursday at Redbird Arena.
Immediately setting the tone with stifling defense and air-tight rebounding, ISU missed its first nine shots.
When the Redbirds’ shooting caught up with the rest of their game, the rout was on as ISU dismantled Eastern Illinois, 84-53, before a crowd of 1,316.
“Our main focus of this game was our defensive intensity and keeping our defensive energy up,” said guard Katie Broadway. “We knew our offense was going to come. We were not really worried about that.”
The Redbirds (2-0) held Eastern (1-2) to 30 percent shooting, recorded 16 steals on 21 Panthers’ turnovers and comfortably prevailed in the rebounding battle, 54-38.
“I felt we were getting really good shots. As long as you’re getting good shots, you know you’re executing to the level you need to,” ISU coach Stephanie Glance said. “You also know those shots are going to fall. They did.”
Hannah Spanich’s 3-pointer at the 16:34 mark was the game’s first points and the Redbirds never trailed. A driving Shala Jackson basket put ISU ahead, 11-2.
“We were moving,” Jackson said. “We were running our lanes and communicating and getting to our spots. That’s what really worked for us.”
A pull-up jumper from Alexis Jenkins in transition boosted the Redbirds’ advantage to 26-9 and ISU carried a 40-17 bulge into halftime.
“I can’t say I was more impressed with Illinois State than I already was coming in. I knew what we were coming into,” said Eastern coach Brady Sallee. “Their defense is really, really good. Coach Glance has them playing at a high level already.”
The Redbirds did not let up in the second half. Amanda Clifton nailed a 3-pointer and then registered one of her game-high four steals to set up a Jackson 3-pointer that produced a 53-23 lead.
“Defense has really been a focus since we started practicing,” Glance said. “Our staff appreciates having our team buy into that. They really embraced it and have gotten really good at it.”
ISU’s bench outscored Eastern’s reserves, 23-0, in the first half and 45-20 overall. Candace Sykes’ 14 points off the bench topped the Redbirds.
Broadway and Spanich added 10 each, while Emily Hanley, Jenkins and Jackson had nine apiece. Hanley and Kenyatta Shelton both snared eight rebounds and Broadway a career-high seven.
Eastern, which was led by 16 points from Jackie Herman, played without sophomore standout Ta’Kenya Nixon because of a knee injury.
“I’m disappointed how we performed, and I don’t think it had a lot to do with Ta’Kenya,” said Sallee. “Illinois State took it to us when the jump ball went up. We stumbled and never really fought back. They beat us top to bottom.”
ISU returns to action Saturday in a 4:05 p.m. contest against Southern Illinois Edwardsville at Redbird Arena.