NORMAL - The intimate gathering at Redbird Arena stood on its feet in the waning moments of the Illinois State women's basketball team's exhibition contest against Odyssey chanting, "100 points, 100 points."
Like everything else on the evening, the response was perfect.
The Redbirds opened their season with an unforgettable offensive explosion, scoring in triple digits for the first time in four years in a 101-76 win Saturday night.
"A lot of positives to build off of," ISU coach Robin Pingeton said. "We've got a lot of work to do yet, but I thought for a first night out there's a lot of exciting things."
ISU shot a sizzling 59.7 percent (40-of-67) from the field and, surprisingly, was even better from beyond the three-point arc, connecting on 14-of-21 attempts (66.7 percent).
"I was anxious to see where we were at," Pingeton said. "I felt like we had that kind of potential. Again, it's so hard to tell in practices, but I feel like we have a lot of offensive weapons."
The weapons met the challenge. Of the 15 players on the roster, 13 scored at least two points, while seven scored more than five.
"We've got a lot of great athletes," said sophomore Kristi Cirone, who scored a game-high 26 points and was 6-of-6 from the 3-point line. "That's working out great."
The balance left Pingeton excited.
"Very impressed," she said of the unselfishness of her team. "I told our kids at the beginning of the season that one of our biggest challenges was going to be able to stay committed to our team, to Illinois State and to understand that it's not about anyone in our locker room, but about our team.
"If we can do that, we have the makeup to have something very special happen this year."
The defense stifled Odyssey, forcing 30 turnovers and limiting it to 43.4 percent shooting (23-of-53) from the field. At one point in the first half, ISU forced turnovers on nine consecutive possessions and held Odyssey without a field goal for 6 minutes, 13 seconds.
"Mainly, our focus was on defense," Cirone said. "You don't want people to score."
Nine times during the game, the Redbirds forced turnovers on consecutive possessions.
"There were a lot of positives with our defense," Pingeton said. "We've got to eliminate some of those silly fouls we're getting. For the first night out playing against a different opponent, I liked the way our press looked.
"At times during the game, you saw some exciting things with the full-court pressure defense."
Freshman Maggie Krick and junior Lashawn Johnson added 10 points, while Sara Stevenson scored nine. Brooke Singleton snared a team-high six rebounds and Cirone tallied a game-high six assists.
Former Quincy University All-American Jessica Stuckman led Odyssey with 25 points, while Renee Schaul added 12 and Bryanne Callahan scored 11.
The Redbirds finish their exhibition slate at home against Northwest Missouri State at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday. ISU will open the regular season Saturday at Northern Illinois.