NORMAL — After nearly ending the longest league winning streak in Missouri Valley Conference history Friday, the Illinois State women's basketball team moves forward with additional belief if not an additional win.
"It's just belief. That's the biggest thing is just believing in yourselves," Redbird freshman guard Paige Saylor said after Drake extended its MVC winning streak to 30 with a 65-58 win.
"We put ourselves in position to win that game. All of us think we should've won. When you don't have the belief, a lot of things can go wrong. But when you do, it seems like everything goes right."
ISU takes on another upper division Valley team Sunday in a 2 p.m. matchup with Northern Iowa at Redbird Arena.
The near miss took ISU coach Kristen Gillespie back to her days as a player at North Carolina State under women's basketball pioneer Coach Kay Yow.
"One of the many thing she said that stuck with us was what is delayed is not denied," said Gillespie. "That rings true. A signature win like this is delayed, but it's not denied. Maybe there is something bigger down the road for this team. But I believe this is just going to add fuel to our fire to compete and be ready to play."
Redbird guards Saylor, Viria Livingston and Katrina Beck have just one day to prepare for Northern Iowa. The trio played all 40 minutes against Drake.
"I wouldn't mind a few extra days rest for these guys. But we don't take that as an excuse," Gillespie said. "We're trying everything. If there are any suggestions, please send them our way of how to recover quicker. Our nutritionist is definitely earning her paycheck with this team."
Gillespie maintains the Redbirds can't afford to be "satisfied" with playing Drake close. "We're not in the business of moral victories any more, maybe earlier in the season. I hope we are ticked off. I hope there is a bitter taste in our mouth."
ISU (8-11 overall, 2-6 in the Valley) completes the first half of the MVC schedule against Northern Iowa (9-10, 5-3).
The Panthers have the league's top rebounder in 6-foot-1 sophomore Megan Maahs at 10.7 per game. Kennedy Kirkpatrick, a 5-10 senior, is the top scorer at 10.6 with 5-9 junior Ellie Howell at 9.8 and Maahs at 9.7.