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Freshmen Lead ISU to 81-76 Victory over Murray State in Home Opener

NORMAL, Ill. – The Illinois State women's basketball team earned its first victory of the season after defeating Murray State, 81-76, at Redbird Arena Wednesday night.

Two freshmen led the Redbirds to their first victory of the season. Shakeela Fowler led the Redbirds with a career-high 18 points while Millie Stevens added a career-high 17 points. Stevens missed out on a double-double by one rebound, finishing with a game-high nine boards. Fowler also added five assists and four rebounds. Taylor Stewart chipped in 12 points, all of which came in the second half. Murray State's Leasia Wright led all scorers with 21 points. She finished 5-for-12 from behind the arc.

The Redbirds shot 28-for-65 (43.1 percent) from the field. Illinois State outscored Murray State in the paint 38-24. ISU held Murray State to 24-for-67 (35.8 percent) from the field.

Murray State (2-1) jumped out to a 9-2 lead to start the first quarter. The Racers did most of their damage behind the three-point line, connecting on 3-of-6 3-pointers. Wright led all scorers with seven points in the first quarter. She also had three rebounds and four assists in the opening period. The Redbirds committed seven turnovers and trailed at the end of the first quarter, 25-13.

The Redbirds started the second quarter strong by going on a 9-0 run to cut the Racers' lead down to just four points, at 28-24. Stevens scored five-straight points during the run as she made a layup and hit three free throws. The Redbirds continued their hot shooting and extended their run to 15-5, and came within two points of Murray State, at 30-28, halfway through the quarter. Illinois State took its first lead of the game at the 2:47 mark on a Fowler floater off the fast break, giving the Redbirds a 35-34 advantage. ISU outscored Murray State 25-13 in the quarter and took a 38-38 tie into the halftime break.

The Redbirds ran out to a seven-point lead, at 47-40, three minutes into the third quarter. Katrina Beck connected on her second 3-pointer of the evening to put the Redbirds up seven, which forced Murray State to call a timeout. ISU held Murray State to 5-for-16 shooting in the third quarter. The Redbirds went into the final period leading, 55-49.

Illinois State and Murray State traded 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. During consecutive possessions, Murray State made three 3-pointers, which were answered by Stewart, who hit two back-to-back 3-pointers for ISU. Off the bench, Stevens extended the ISU lead to 66-58 on a layup in traffic. At the 4:08 mark, Stevens was fouled after making a hook shot in the lane, and she went on to make the free throw to give ISU a 69-60 advantage. The Racers got to within four points of the Redbirds at 74-70, but ISU held off Murray State and picked up its first win of the season with a final score of 81-76. Down the stretch, ISU shot 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.

The Redbirds will be back in action on Monday, November 23 when they host Illinois-Chicago. That game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. CT.

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