ROCHESTER, Mich. — The Illinois State women's basketball team finally shook its first-half doldrums Saturday in building a 17-point halftime lead.
It all came unraveled in the second half at The O'Rena.
Oakland shot a sizzling 55 percent from the field in the second half to force overtime and pulled out a 73-71 nonconference win on Jayme Wilson's two free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining.
ISU, which built a 20-point lead early in the second half, dropped to 4-3 with its third straight loss. Wilson, who netted a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, went to the line for the winning free throws after ISU's Lashawn Johnson was called for a blocking foul. Oakland made 7 of 8 free throws in overtime.
"We're proud of our kids and proud of their effort," said ISU coach Robin Pingeton. "Losing this game is tough. It came down to a (play) at the end when we thought Lashawn Johnson had all ball, but in a game like this, you can't let it come down to that."
The Redbirds built a 40-23 halftime lead behind 12 points each from sophomore Amber Shelton and freshman point guard Kristi Cirone. Cirone hit all four of her 3-point attempts in the opening half as ISU shot 50 percent (6 of 12) from behind the arc and 52 percent (16 of 31) overall.
Oakland, which beat ISU 82-70 last season at Redbird Arena, saw its deficit climb to 20 in the first two minutes of the second half. The Golden Grizzlies came roaring back and went on a 29-8 run to go ahead 54-52 with 10:40 left. Wilson scored 17 points in the burst.
Shelton finished with a career-high 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for ISU, and Cirone added 17 points. Shelton and Cirone were both 4 of 7 from behind the arc. Leading scorer Holly Hallstrom grabbed a team-high nine rebounds but was held to four points. Freshman center Nicolle Lewis contributed nine points and eight rebounds.
"This is the kind of effort we expect from Amber, and she showed it today," Pingeton said.
The Redbirds shot 33 percent in the second half (9 of 27) and 17 percent (1 of 6) in overtime to finish at 41 percent (26 of 64). Oakland shot 40 percent (25 of 62) for the game but was 7 of 14 from 3-point range.
"We got into foul trouble and at times had four freshmen on the floor," Pingeton said. "We just weren't able to get the job done. Certainly our effort was better, start to finish, than any of our first six games."
Anne Hafeli added 21 points for Oakland, and Nicole Piggott collected 11 points and 11 rebounds. The Golden Grizzlies outrebounded ISU 42-40 but committed 20 turnovers, three more than the Redbirds.
ISU will begin finals week Monday before returning to action Saturday at Texas-El Paso. The Redbirds will conclude a three-game road swing Dec. 22 against Illinois at Assembly Hall.