NORMAL — Emily Hanley promises to put in some extra work at the free throw line after a 4-of-10 performance Thursday at Redbird Arena.
Yet it was Hanley’s persistent and suddenly more effective second-half labor in the post that gave the Illinois State women the wings to claim a 69-60 Missouri Valley Conference victory over Wichita State before a crowd of 1,164.
“I felt like I was going hard to the basket … or I thought I was,” said Hanley, who scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half. “I realized I needed to play harder. When things aren’t going your way, you have to keep pushing through it.”
The Redbirds matched the second best home start in program history at 11-0 while moving to 16-6 overall. At 8-3 in the Valley, ISU is one-half game behind second-place Creighton at 9-3.
“We sort of gutted this one out,” ISU coach Stephanie Glance said. “They knew it wasn’t their best game, but they didn’t get down about it. They kept fighting through. That shows the maturity of this team.”
The Redbirds saw an eight-point lead whittled to two as Haleigh Lankster turned a steal into a layup at the 8:51 mark.
A Hanley free throw, Katie Broadway’s 3-pointer following a Shockers’ turnover and a Broadway jumper from the baseline extended the ISU lead to 56-48.
Wichita (11-12, 5-7) crept within 61-56 with 4:16 to play. But key baskets from Hanley and Shala Jackson kept the Shockers at bay.
In its sixth straight victory, ISU survived 4 of 10 shooting from the line over the final 3:23 and a shaky 53 percent (18 of 34) overall.
“Even if it’s not pretty, it’s still a win,” said Glance. “I felt like we were smart defensively. We were physical with Wichita but smart about it.”
Broadway supported Hanley with 16 points, while Jackson and Hannah Spanich added 11 each. The Redbirds shot 62 percent from the field in the second half to finish at 49 percent (24 of 49).
“We converted on hustle plays and on our defense,” said Spanich. “We were moving more and getting more aggressive.”
Jessica Diamond topped the Shockers with 15 points. Lankster chipped in 13 and Jazimen Gordon 12 and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“It was their mentality to take advantage of opportunities when you have them,” Wichita coach Jody Adams said. “It’s a tough environment to play in, and we competed well. But in the end our mentality wasn’t where it needed to be.”
The Shockers had just eight players available as third-leading scorer Morgan Boyd was sidelined with a concussion. Wichita finished with no reserves after Michelle Price, Chynna Turner and Alicia Sanchez fouled out.
ISU meets Missouri State at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday in a “Pink” breast cancer awareness game at Redbird Arena. Admission is $1 as are hot dogs and pink lemonade.