NORMAL — Duquesne’s Samantha Pollino was not particularly pleased with Illinois State senior Emily Hanley early in the second half Thursday, and official Rod Creech made a tripping motion to indicate the infraction.
“I think she got caught up in my feet,” Hanley said through a widening grin. “Stuff happens. That’s part of the game. People are aggressive and intense. You get caught up in it. That’s OK. I’m sure she’s a really nice person.”
Hanley was a thorn in the Dukes’ side all evening and scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in the second half as the Redbirds rolled to a 79-66 Women’s National Invitation Tournament third round victory before a Redbird Arena crowd of 1,916.
“We played great defense the second half,” said ISU coach Stephanie Glance, whose team trailed by two at the break. “That was one of our best halves of the year on both ends of the floor.”
Advancing to the WNIT quarterfinals for the third straight season, the 23-10 Redbirds pushed their spotless home record to 16-0 and will face Arkansas (22-11) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Redbird Arena.
The decisive 16-2 second-half surge was ignited by a 3-pointer from reserve guard Alexis Jenkins. Hanley followed with two inside buckets and a 3-pointer for a 53-42 lead.
Pollino scored for Duquesne (24-9) but Hanley hit again on a Jenkins assist, Hannah Spanich nailed two free throws and a Kenyatta Shelton steal led to a Shala Jackson layup for a 59-44 bulge with 9:36 to play.
“They scored in multiple ways, and we didn’t have an answer defensively,” Dukes’ coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “They scored on the block, they scored from three. They just picked us apart. We ran into a tough team that played a great game of basketball.”
Hanley was 9-of-10 from the field and connected on both her shots from beyond the arc. She has just 15 3-pointers all season.
“Just go at the rim. The only goal is to get to the rim,” said Hanley. “With a team like that you just need to move the ball and find the open player. Getting to the rim will seem so easy because it spreads everybody out. The defense has to play everybody and rotate so quickly. We have somebody open almost always.”
Jackson scored 21 for her second 20-point performance of the season.
“We were just out there running,” Jackson said. “Coach told us to do that and we did it.”
ISU’s pace exacted a toll on a Duquesne squad that dressed only eight players after losing reserve Carly Vendemia (ankle) and starter Jocelyn Floyd (concussion) late in the season.
“We want to run no matter what. We’re at our best when we’re able to run in transition, move the ball and move ourselves,” said Glance. “But they did get tired. It was a factor in the game.”
Spanich added 14 points and Katie Broadway 10. Shelton and Spanich grabbed eight rebounds each as the teams battled to a 39-all draw on the boards. Amanda Clifton contributed eight assists, five steals and two blocks.
Pollino paced four Dukes in double figures with 17 points. Alex Gensler chipped in 13, Wumi Agunbiade 12 and Vanessa Abel 11.
Tickets: Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets for Sunday’s game online at goredbirds.com. Tickets also are available at the ISU Ticket Office in Redbird Arena from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and beginning at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for children 18 and under and free for ISU students.