NORMAL — Redbird Arena has been more than just a refuge for the Illinois State women’s basketball team this season.
It’s been a fortress.
The Redbirds have matched the fifth best home court start in program history at 8-0 entering today’s 4:05 p.m. Missouri Valley Conference game against Drake.
“It’s because we have our sixth man, our fans,” said senior forward Kenyatta Shelton. “It makes it more comfortable to play. The comfort level does it for us.”
The 1989-90 ISU team started 12-0 at home, while the ’08-09 and ’06-07 teams both opened 11-0.
“I’m glad we’re playing well at home. But I would like to play a little better on the road,” said ISU coach Stephanie Glance, whose team is 2-5 in opposing arenas. “The challenge is to understand how we’re winning. We have to emulate that every night to be consistent.”
The Redbirds (11-6 overall) are trying to ascend above a fourth-place Valley logjam at 3-3 that also features Drake, Indiana State and Wichita State.
Drake (9-8 overall) boasts the conference’s leading scorer in 5-foot-9 senior Kristin Turk, who averages 20.6 points.
“She has a really quick release on her shot. She’s very accurate from the 3-point line and she can take people off the dribble,” Glance said. “You cannot help off of her. You have to know where she is all the time. They do screen for her quite a bit.”
Providing inside power for the Bulldogs is 6-3 junior Rachael Hackbarth, who chips in 12.9 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds.
Shelton connected on 3-of-5 shots in Thursday’s win over Creighton after recent struggles with her shooting.
“I felt a lot more relaxed. I was more happy to play than nervous,” she said. “When I’m nervous, I rush things and that takes away from my shots.”
Redbird senior Emily Hanley ranks fourth in Valley scoring at 14.7 and leads the conference with a .521 field goal percentage. ISU point guard Amanda Clifton is the MVC assist leader at 4.9 per contest.
Drake at ISU women
Time: 4:05 p.m. today
Broadcast: WJBC (1230-AM, 93.7-FM)