When faced with adversity, you rely on your seniors to lead you through the woods. Evansville purple aces (12-18) did just that on the opening night of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
"I'm really excited, said Evansville head coach Oties Epps. "It's my first win in the tournament as a headcoach. This lady next to me, Mallory Ladd, has to be one of the best performances in MVC history. She willed us tonight."
"I had an attack mentality," said the Evansville senior Ladd. "I had a little more confidence. I had a great week of practice. "This is my last go-round, I didn't want to end on a bad note."
Though, a defensive affair, Ladd provided just enough spark on offense all evening, being the primary ballhandler and scorer throughout the first half. She dropped 16 points and Evansville led by as many as eight in the half.
The game was limited was rampant with poor shot selectioin and missed opportunities. Evansville was able to capitizlie a little more than Illinois State to help be the difference.
The Redbirds never quit, despite falling behind by eight in the first half at 25-17 with 2:53 left.
Evansville led 25-19 at halftime.
After trailing for basically the entire contest, sans the opening possession, the Redbirds finally found the positive side of the scoreboard from a Mary Sims 3-pointer with 10:17 left in the game.
Evansville would secure the lead for good minutes later, taking the 37-35 lead off a Ladd 3-pointer. Ladd has been held scoreless in the second half up until that point. It was the key to a 10-0 run for the Purple Aces.
"They got a couple of better looks than they did first half, said Ladd. "We were going back and forth. Once we got stops and knocked our free throws down we were able to pull away."
Lindsay Smith finally ended the Evansville run with a jumper at the 5:16 mark, bringing the Redbirds within seven. Back-to-back buckets from Octavia Crump helped bring Illinois State within three once again, but more turnovers and fouls became an issue, handicapping the comeback.
Sara Dickey stole the inbound with 1:26 to go and laid it up, putting Evansville up 48-41 and icing the game.
A rough season comes to an end for Illinois State. Just two seasons after winning 24 games, they finish with just two victories. There's enough youth on the team, four sophomores, that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Katy Winge led the Redbirds with 17 points tonight in her final collegiate game.
With the victory, Evansville seasons continues against the Drake Bulldogs tomorrow night at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3 and @OKCChuck will continue to have your coverage on twitter.
"This is why you practice so hard," said coach Epps. "To prepare for these opportunities. We took care of our business tonight."