NORMAL, Ill. - A three-pointer by Illinois State with 18 seconds left to play sealed a first-round WNIT win over Central Michigan, 69-68, on Thursday night.
The Chippewas (20-16) used an 11-0 run that was capped off with four straight points from Crystal Bradford, to take a three-point lead with 1:39 left to play. A Redbird (19-12) layup cut the lead to one with 1:09 remaining. The dagger for CMU came from ISU's offensive rebound that led to Candace Sykes burying a three-pointer to put the Redbirds in front, 69-67, with 18 seconds remaining. Jas'Mine Bracey was fouled on the ensuing possession, but could only convert on one of two free throws.
CMU was able to foul the Redbirds and forced the one-and-one. ISU's Jamie Russell missed the first free throw and Brandie Baker came down with the defensive rebound. She pushed the ball up the court and fired a shot from half court that went wide right, and the Chippewas' season was brought to an end.
"We were up one when we get them to take a shot," said head coach Sue Guevara. "They missed, got the offensive rebound and Sykes hits a big three. This is the second game in a row that free throws have just done us in. With a young team like this, they have to understand the importance of one free throw."
The Maroon and Gold got their first 11 points from freshmen, as they jumped in front 11-4. After five unanswered points from the Redbirds, the Chippewas tore off an 11-0 run that was capped off by a trey from Bradford, putting CMU up 22-9 at 10:39. For the next three minutes the Chippewas were held without a basket and the Redbirds cut the lead to 24-17 at 7:32. ISU continued to chip away at the lead and were able to go into halftime up 31-28.
To begin the second half, ISU scored the first four points until a bucket by Baker ended the 14-0 run, which began at the end of the first half. Both teams traded baskets but back-to-back layups from Bradford and Jordan LaDuke allowed the Chippewas to cut the lead to four at 12:17. ISU responded and following a three-ball by Sykes it was back in front by 10, at 9:54.
A small 5-0 run by CMU cut the deficit to six at 5:36. A layup by Bracey at 3:02 gave the Maroon and Gold their first lead of the second half. CMU could not stop the hot shooting from the Redbirds from behind the arc, and for the second consecutive season ISU dismissed CMU in the first round of the WNIT.
As a team, ISU shot 40.7 (11-27) percent from behind the arc and 36.8 percent from the floor. CMU shot 45 percent from the floor and 38.1 percent from long range. It was only able to force the Redbirds into five turnovers, while committing 14 of its own.
The CMU bench contributed 44 points. Bradford came off the bench to record her 11th double-double of the season with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Tamm added nine from the bench going 3-for-4 from long range. Bracey posted her sixth double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.