NORMAL — It was a first quarter to behold Friday at Redbird Arena, 10 minutes Coach Kristen Gillespie hopes is a portent of things to come for Illinois State.

And the final three quarters were hardly a face-first dive into the mud for the Redbirds.

Yet in Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball — until another team is able to declare authoritatively otherwise — Drake is still Drake.

The Bulldogs did not lead until late in the third quarter and watched ISU briefly surge ahead in the fourth quarter before securing their 30th straight MVC victory, 65-58, before a crowd of 607.

"The toughest part as a coach is wanting something so badly for your kids," Gillespie said. "All week long all we talked about was belief. We really believed we were going to beat them. People probably think that's crazy, but that's who we're trying to become."

Drake finished the game on an 11-4 run, helped by 10 of 11 fourth-quarter free throw shooting.

"We were really lucky to escape with a win in this game," said Bulldogs coach Jennie Baranczyk. "I thought Illinois State played really well, and we played on our heels probably most of the game if not all the game."

Drake remained atop the MVC at 8-0 and improved to 13-7 overall.

ISU (8-11, 2-6) stormed to a 10-2 lead with Hannah Green, Paige Saylor and Katrina Beck all knocking down 3-pointers. The Redbirds, who had not scored more than 18 points in the first quarter of its 18 previous games, took a 24-14 advantage into the second period.

"We knew our defense is extremely tough for a team like Drake. We used that," Green said. "It was an incredible belief in our defensive effort to shut down their many cuts and just a belief in being able to exploit their defense."

The Redbirds also were fueled by a perceived slight from Drake in the Bulldogs' pregame preparation.

"I was actually really mad the first quarter. I think that played into it a lot," Saylor said. "Drake comes in an hour before the game and doesn't warm up until 45 minutes before the game. I'm like 'all right, you're not prepared. I'm going to go out there and try to give it my all.'

"We all did. Our defensive effort was ridiculous (good)."

A 26 percent 3-point shooting team entering the game that hit 5 of 6 from beyond the arc in the opening quarter, ISU committed six turnovers and made only 2 of 9 second-quarter shots, retreating to the halftime locker room tied 30-30.

Sara Rhine, the 2016 MVC Freshman of the Year, scored nine of her 16 points in the second quarter to spark the Bulldogs' rally.

"It was just the off-ball movement. That was pretty much it," Green said. "You should really battle to not get posted up and it happened tonight. I wasn't happy with the way I handled that."

Drake seized its first lead at 42-40 on a Becca Hittner 3-pointer, but the Redbirds were back even at 45-all after a Green inside shot with three seconds left in the third quarter.

A Megan Talbot 3-pointer gave ISU its final lead at 52-51, and a Talbot jumper at the 3:25 mark lifted the Redbirds into a 54-54 deadlock. But Drake scored the next seven points and ISU could not recover.

Green topped all scorers with 19 points and Saylor added 13. Both were 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Talbot chipped in 11 points and Beck six assists.

Hittner's 18 points led Drake, which outrebounded the Redbirds, 31-24.

ISU connected on 8 of 13 from 3-point range and finished at 48 percent overall (23 of 48).

"They really play hard," Baranczyk said. "They really moved the ball well. They shot better than they have, and you expect to play better defense."

ISU faces Northern Iowa in another home game Sunday at 2 p.m.

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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