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NORMAL — Friday's much-needed victory over Loyola thrilled Illinois State women's basketball coach Kristen Gillespie with its mere presence.

The number attached to it didn't particularly move Gillespie, although ISU's ninth of the season surpassed the Redbird total of all last season.

"We don't talk a ton about the past. We want to be the best version of ourselves," said Gillespie, whose team tries for a 2-0 weekend Sunday in a 1 p.m. Missouri Valley Conference game against Valparaiso at Redbird Arena. "All we cared about was going 1-0 and we did that.

"I want the players to enjoy it and feel really good about it, then try to get No. 10 on Sunday."

No. 10 would be a bit of a milestone whether Gillespie chooses to view it as such or not. ISU has not won 10 games in a season since 2013-14 and has not secured more than 10 since 2012-13.

"It's one goal at a time," junior guard Katrina Beck said. "Obviously, we want to win more than eight games. But we're not celebrating because we got nine. We want more than that."

The Redbirds are 9-12 overall and 3-7 in the MVC with Valpo (10-11, 3-7) seeking a season sweep. The Crusaders defeated ISU, 56-50, on Jan. 5.

"We definitely didn't play our best at Valpo," said Beck of a game in which ISU shot 24.6 percent from the field and converted just 2 of 22 attempts from 3-point range. "But we can't really look at that. We have to focus on this game."

Gillespie was encouraged by the eight points and seven rebounds against Loyola from junior Simone Goods, her highest rebound total since Dec. 31.

"I posted harder so it opened up a lot more for me," said Goods, who missed several games in November and early December with a foot injury. "It's me getting more comfortable, doing what I have to do to get the ball and going from there."

Gillespie said Goods is "really hard to guard when she posts properly and sits in there. She draws a lot of attention. That helps us."

Valpo is led by 6-foot-1 senior Dani Freeman, who averages 15.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. Meredith Hamlet, a 5-8 junior, adds 11.5 points. Grace Hales (8.6) is among the Valley's top 3-point shooters at 50.7 percent.

"That's the tough thing about this conference. It's a one-day prep and we're not very deep," said Gillespie. "It's another opportunity to prove people wrong. We do have something to prove. Our culture is changing. You can see it a little bit."

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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