USC 63, ILLINOIS STATE 36
NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State's impressive run in the 2011 WNIT was cut short Wednesday night, as the visiting USC Trojans (24-12) defeated the Redbirds (24-11) by a score of 63-36 in front of a crowd of 4,162 fans at Redbird Arena.
The Redbirds finished the season 17-1 on Doug Collins Court and advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT for the third-straight year. ISU's 24 wins tie for the fifth-most in ISU history and the crowd of 4,162 marked the fifth-largest crowd to watch a women's game in arena history. ISU struggled from the field all game and finished 16-for-60 from the field (26.7 percent), including a 6-for-32 effort in the second half. USC shot 46.2 percent from the field (24-for-52) and out-rebounded the Redbirds 47-29 to advance to the WNIT championship against Toledo.
Senior Emily Hanley ended her career with nine points and eight rebounds to lead the way for the Redbirds against the Trojans and fellow senior Amanda Clifton added eight points, four steals and three assists. USC had three players in double figures, led by Jacki Gemelos' 15 points and seven rebounds and Ashley Corral's with 14 points and five rebounds.
The Trojans ran out to a quick 16-1 lead, which included eight points in the paint and 10 points scored off ISU turnovers. The Redbirds were cold from the field during that stretch and started the game 0-for-11, before Clifton nailed a jumper from the wing at the 10:15 mark to make the score 16-3. With the score at 18-3, Hanley nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 18-6 but USC answered with a three-pointer from Briana Gilbreath to extend the lead to 21-6. Back-to-back jumpers from Candace Sykes and Hanley then cut the lead to just 11 points at 21-11, before both teams traded baskets to make the score 23-12 at the second media timeout.
The Redbirds cut the lead to single digits after a jumper by Shala Jackson, but a jumper from Jacki Gemelos and a three-pointer from Ashley Corral widened the USC back out to 28-14 at the 5:15 mark. A jumper by Clifton with 3:34 left in the half cut the USC advantage to 28-16 and another jumper from Jackson cut into the Trojan lead at 28-18. After each team scored to make the score 30-20, Clifton hit a turn-around jumper from just beyond the free throw line with two seconds left to send the Redbirds into the locker down by just eight points at 30-22.
After starting the game 0-for-11 from the field, the Redbirds shot 10-for-17 over the remainder of the first half to finish 10-for-28 (35.7 percent) from the field. USC shot 13-for-29 from the field (44.8 percent) through the first 20 minutes of play and finished with 14 points in the pain and eight fast break points.
USC came out of the locker room and went on an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 38-22 after a layup by Gemelos, but Hanley answered quickly with a jumper in the lane of her own to make the score 38-24 with 15:21 left in the second half. The Trojans followed with a quick 5-0 run to take a 43-24 with 13:32 left on the clock.
ISU chipped away at the lead and cut it to 49-34 after jumper by Sykes with just over 10 minutes left in the game, but USC answered with a 6-0 run to take a 55-34 lead with 7:50 left in the game. USC maintained control the rest of the way and went up by as much as 27 points before securing the 63-36 win.