NORMAL — Getting a handle on its ballhandling was a skill that consistently eluded the Illinois State women's basketball team Sunday at Redbird Arena.
A promising start gave way to a turnover-plagued finish as Northern Iowa's trapping defense engulfed the Redbirds in the Panthers' 58-36 Missouri Valley Conference victory.
ISU managed just 12 second-half points and were held to a season-low point total while slipping to 8-12 overall and 2-7 in the MVC.
“Against a defense like that, we can put pieces together and tell people where they need to cut, but you have to make plays,” Redbird coach Kristen Gillespie said. “It came down to making plays over their length. We kind of shied away and didn’t want the ball.”
ISU held a 15-7 lead at the 2:05 mark of the first quarter but could not muster its next 15 points until early in the fourth period.
UNI (10-10, 6-3) climbed back into a 24-24 tie entering halftime and thoroughly dominated the third quarter.
“Things went wrong and went wrong quickly,” said Gillespie. “As the quarter went on, we let our frustration on the offensive end totally dictate what we did defensively. For this team to be successful, we have to defend and we did not do that.”
The Panthers added a wrinkle to their defense for the third quarter and the result was the Redbirds missing seven straight shots and committing eight turnovers. UNI took advantage of the miscues by outscoring ISU, 19-3, over the third quarter’s final eight minutes.
“I thought that was the best third quarter of the season for us on both ends of the floor. We went to the 2-2-1, what we call our Cats defense, where we trap a lot,” UNI coach Tanya Warren said. “I thought we did a nice job turning them over, and it led to some easy baskets for us.”
The Panthers also received third-quarter 3-pointers from Ellie Howell, Nicole Kroeger and Kennedy Kirkpatrick.
“All of their actions we’ve guarded numerous times,” said Gillespie. “It was like we were a magnet to their screens.”
ISU managed just seven fourth-quarter points. The 25-turnover total was the second highest of the season.
“We turned the ball over way too much,” Redbird sophomore forward Megan Talbot said. “All of us can handle the ball. I have faith our whole team can do it. But today turnovers were a major issue.”
Talbot led ISU in scoring with an underwhelming seven. Viria Livingston and Simone Goods had six each. Hannah Green topped all rebounders with 11.
"I felt like we could have attacked the zone more," said Livingston. "They spread it out so wide. There were a lot of holes. We could have done a better job being aggressive."
ISU held a 21-16 rebounding edge at halftime but the Panthers ultimately finished with a 39-33 margin on the boards.
Kirkpatrick paced UNI with 12 points and Howell had 10. The Panthers had 11 fewer turnovers than the Redbirds and shot 37.3 percent from the field to ISU’s 31 percent.