PEORIA — There’s no need to keep an eye on other action around Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball on Saturday at Renaissance Coliseum.
In a 2 p.m. regular-season finale, Illinois State and Bradley have their fates spelled out for them quite clearly.
“It’s a big game,” ISU coach Kristen Gillespie said. “We want that sixth place.”
Sixth place means avoiding Thursday’s play-in round at the MVC Tournament, and Saturday’s winner secures it.
The Redbirds are 13-15 overall and 7-10 in the Valley. Bradley stands at 12-16 and 6-11, respectively, and would own the tiebreaker with a victory.
“It’s definitely something we’ve been talking about a lot,” said ISU junior guard Katrina Beck. “It’s a big game because we don’t want to play Thursday.”
Saturday’s loser will finish seventh in the 10-team MVC and meet last-place Evansville on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline.
Both teams have only one game the final week of the regular season, and Gillespie welcomes the break.
“The kids got Monday and Tuesday off,” the ISU coach said. “That was probably the best practice we could have done, get those kids off their legs.”
According to Gillespie, junior starter Viria Livingston is questionable for Saturday with knee discomfort. Livingston sat out last Saturday’s loss at Drake.
“Viria is getting better. We got her fitted for a brace so we’re just hoping,” said Gillespie. “She’s had the same injury the same weekend the last three years. It’s probably overuse. This is the same knee she tore her ACL in high school and she's had a couple scopes.”
ISU opened its MVC schedule with a 62-42 loss to Bradley on Dec. 31 at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds, who were missing senior forward Hannah Green, were outscored 14-3 in the third quarter and shot a woeful 23.6 percent from the field overall.
“We just weren’t playing our best basketball back then,” Beck said. “We’ve been playing a lot better and a lot better together. So I think it will be a different story.”
Simone Goods scored 22 of ISU’s points in the first Bradley game and grabbed 14 rebounds. Shunseere Kent, a 5-foot-7 junior, led the Braves with 15 points and averages 8.4.
Gabi Haack, a 5-10 freshman, paces Bradley in scoring at 10.3 and is the Braves’ best 3-point shooter. Vanessa Markert, a 6-2 junior, chips in 9.9 points.
“It’s Bradley’s Senior Night and both teams are playing for the same thing,” said Gillespie. “It will probably be a high emotion game.”