NORMAL - Indiana State senior guard Melanie Boeglin didn't win the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award Saturday.
Illinois State may beg to differ.
The 5-foot-6 Boeglin poured in 28 of her game-high 29 points in the second half to almost single-handedly rally the league-leading Sycamores to a 75-71 victory before a crowd of 3,581, the second-largest in Redbird women's basketball history.
"The first half I was kind of frustrated and a little bit flustered," Boeglin said. "The coaches calmed me down and told me to take it to the basket in the second half, and that's what I tried to do. Once I get my confidence rolling, that's a huge thing for me.
"I knew the team was down and they tend to feed off of my energy. I didn't bring it the first half, so the second half I tried to step it up, and you could just see our momentum start rolling."
Indiana State improved to 18-2 overall and 10-0 in the Valley with its 16th straight victory. Maybe more importantly, the Sycamores erased the painful memory of last year's 72-70 last-second loss to Illinois State at Redbird Arena in the championship game of the Valley Tournament.
"We definitely wanted some revenge," Boeglin said. "It's funny because we walked into our locker room today and all we could remember was bawling after that game. We're so happy to come out of here with a victory."
While the Sycamores celebrated, Illinois State (8-11, 3-7) was left lamenting a golden opportunity wasted. The Redbirds couldn't hold a nine-point second-half lead, and instead of getting a potential game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds, Megan McCracken drove to the basket and saw her shot swatted away by Indiana State's Laura Rudolphi.
"I take responsibility for that," Illinois State coach Robin Pinegton said of her team's final possession. "We've got a team that doesn't really adjust well in timeouts to plays we haven't run in practice. We drew up a different play they had not run, but I really don't think it came down the last shot.
"Indiana State is a great team. It's a team you can't have the kind of breakdowns we did, and we had a lot of them."
With Boeglin going 0 for 5 from the field, the Sycamores fell behind 33-21 before ending the first half with a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to 33-28.
"In the first half I thought Illinois State played about as well as they could play," Indiana State coach Jim Wiedie said. "They were playing at a higher pace than we were, and they were much more aggressive on the offensive end than we were. For us to be down five at half considering how we played, I thought we were extremely fortunate."
Boeglin scored the Sycamores' first seven points of the second half, but Illinois State managed to open a 44-35 lead with 14:30 remaining after Wiedie was called for a technical foul. Indiana State responded with a 16-0 run to go ahead 51-44, and the Redbirds never regained the lead.
"Coach Wiedie gets real fired up some times, and we really feed off that," Boeglin said. "What stands out about that technical was he was sticking up for us. He went to battle for us, and that's what we do for him. It fired us up, and we took it from there."
Illinois State got within one three times in the final three minutes. The Sycamores answered every challenge behind Boeglin, who made 8 of 11 field goal tries in the second half. Boeglin also sank 12 of 14 free throws while grabbing seven rebounds.
"I thought the last three minutes of the first half and the first eight minutes of the second half we got soft," Pingeton said. "They made a run, and Boeglin took over. That's what great players do. She put the team on her shoulders. She really did just about anything she wanted to do."
Stephanie Lisch added 13 points for the Sycamores, who shot 58 percent in the second half. Indiana State also made 20 of 23 free throws.
Freshman point guard Krisiti Cirone paced Illinois State with 16 points. Holly Hallstrom posted her sixth double-double of the season, collecting 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Amber Shelton added 14 points. The Redbirds shot 38 percent overall and 28 percent from 3-point range.
"We broke down way too many times, especially during key possessions," Shelton said. "(Boeglin) just got away from us. It's frustrating because we were in a position to win that game. We'll work hard and hopefully see them in the conference tournament."