The University of Evansville women's basketball team earned its first road Missouri Valley Conference win under second-year head coach Oties Epps with a key, 71-57, win over host Illinois State Thursday night at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.
The Purple Aces (5-10, 3-1 MVC) used a 46-point second half and held the Redbirds (11-6, 3-2 MVC) to a 35.5 percent shooting percentage to pull away late in the contest, as sophomore Mallory Ladd tallied her sixth-straight double-double by scoring a team-high 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Senior Samantha Heck scored 14 points over the final 20 minutes en route to a 16-point, seven-rebound effort. Redshirt sophomore Khristian Hart also finished in double figures for Evansville by scoring 14 points.
Evansville jumped out to an early lead, as Ladd scored the first eight points for the Aces, and UE led, 8-0, just over four minutes into the contest.
The Redbirds responded after an early timeout, using their defense to hold Evansville without a point for over six minutes, as Jamie Russell knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing to cap a 12-0 run and give ISU its first lead, 16-13, at the 7:02 mark.
Hart ended the Aces' scoring drought by knocking down a free throw and later put UE back on front, 19-18, burying a deep three with 3:40 remaining in the opening stanza.
The two sides traded baskets for the majority of the final three minutes and Heck closed the half by scoring four-straight points for the Aces, giving Evansville at 25-23 advantage at the intermission.
UE quickly regained momentum to start the second half, extending its lead to 30-23 on a Ladd three-pointer from the left wing with 18:13 to play, but Illinois State quickly responded. Janae Smith converted on a pair of free throws to pull the Redbirds back within three at 32-29 at the 16:18 mark.
ISU pulled even on a pair of occasions in the second half, with the latest coming at 35-35 with just under 14 minutes remaining in the contest, before the Aces opened up a 43-35 margin with an 8-0 run that was capped by a free throw from senior Taylor Ware.
Jamie Russell ran off six-straight points for Illinois State to bring the Redbirds back within two at 45-43 with 8:50 showing on the clock, but that was as close as they would get.
Redshirt senior Chelsea Falkenstein drilled a three from the top of the arc to push Evansville's lead to 50-43 with eight minutes to play, before Hart sank a free throw to put the Aces in front by double digits for the first time at 53-43 with 6:35 to play.
UE sealed the game by going on a 14-3 run with just under five minutes to play, as sophomore Juliann Miller put Evansville up 61-46 with a pair of free throws.
The Aces put a cap on the victory by hitting their free throws down the stretch, going 22-for-25 from the charity stripe in the second half for an 88.0 percent clip.
Russell led Illinois State with a game-high 24 points, going 10-for-22 from the field and recording four steals.
Evansville held a slim, 37-32, advantage on the boards and scored 16 points off of Illinois State's 14 turnovers.
The Redbirds outscored the Aces, 26-24, inside the paint and scored all nine of the game's fast break points.
UE will look to extend its winning streak to three games Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind., as the Aces will take on Indiana State at 1:05 p.m. inside Hulman Center.
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