NORMAL — Illinois State is expecting approximately 3,000 kids at Redbird Arena on Thursday for an 11 a.m. Education Day nonconference women's basketball game against Saint Louis University.
“Hopefully, they will see us play with a ton of passion and energy and go home and tell Mom and Dad what an awesome time they had,” ISU coach Kristen Gillespie said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a loud game.”
It’s a good thing for the Redbirds that senior post player Simone Goods and newcomer Lexi Wallen are already communicating quite well on the court. Wallen has played two games with the basketball team after completing a standout career with the ISU volleyball team.
“She’s really caught on to it quickly,” Goods said. “She has a history of playing basketball so it’s not like she’s completely out of it. It’s easy when you have someone willing to lock in on what we’re trying to do.”
Goods leads the 5-4 Redbirds at 17.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Wallen scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in Sunday’s win over Maryville and has provided a much-needed third inside player to complement Goods and freshman Lexy Koudelka.
“She gave us a huge spark,” Gillespie said of Wallen. “I thought she was our best talker and her body language was great. We need to learn from her.”
“When Simone gets the ball, I’m looking to crash the board,” said Wallen. “I’m looking to get the tough rebound if she doesn’t make it. We’re working together to score.”
Wallen scored over 2,000 points at Champaign St. Thomas More but hadn’t played basketball the past four years.
“She has been unbelievable. We put her in a lot of tough spots just throwing her out there,” Gillespie said. “Even if she doesn’t score, her effort and all the intangibles make up for it. Getting a rebound and keeping the ball alive, I’ll take that any day.”
Wallen acknowledges the physical demands of basketball and volleyball are different.
"You could probably see I was a little winded out there," Wallen said after the Maryville game. "It will take a few weeks to get back into it. There is a lot less running in volleyball and a lot more constant movement in basketball."
While she has exhausted her volleyball eligibility, Wallen could play another full season of Redbird basketball next year under NCAA rules.
"I'm definitely thinking about it, but we'll have to see," she said. "I don't want to say yes or no yet."
The ISU coach believes both Goods and Wallen are “role models to learn from” for the developing Koudelka.
“She’s in good hands,” said Gillespie. “Lexy is going to get there. From June when she first came on campus to where she is now is a big leap.”
The Redbirds have won four straight for the first time since the 2012-13 season and are 4-0 at home.
Saint Louis is 4-6 and has split two previous matchups with Missouri Valley Conference competition, losing to Indiana State, 60-56, and defeating Southern Illinois, 62-58. The last two SLU losses have been to nationally ranked Connecticut and Missouri.
The Billikens are led by 5-foot-6 freshman Ciaja Harbison at 13.9 points per game and 6-0 senior Jordyn Frantz at 13.2.
Daytime, weekday parking: ISU season ticket holders will be able to park in their normal lots with a pass.
Public parking will be available in lots G53 and S81, adjacent to the arena. Parking at Kingsley Junior High will not be available as school is still in session.