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Watch now: Illinois State women back at full strength and 8 other items about MVC basketball

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While proud of her team for defeating Bradley last week with three starters in COVID-19 protocols, Illinois State women’s basketball coach Kristen Gillespie is relieved the Redbirds won’t be trying to repeat the feat.

“Everyone is back from COVID,” Gillespie said Thursday as ISU prepares for an Indiana road trip with games against Indiana State at 5 p.m. on Friday and Evansville at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Redbirds were missing starters JuJu Redmond, DeAnna Wilson and Jada Stinson for the 64-57 Missouri Valley Conference-opening win over Bradley. Also absent were assistant coaches Scott Gillespie and Mariyah Brawner-Henley, director of operations Stephanie Kuzmanic and video coordinator Benji Mastandrea.

“Everyone was hoping this year would be a little bit more normal. I think we had a little false security the way the season started,” Kristen Gillespie said. “We looked at Saturday as an opportunity for players to step up and showcase what they can do, and they ran with that opportunity. It was extremely rewarding. I think the team got a little closer.”

Crompton moving up

ISU redshirt junior Mary Crompton took over fifth place on the Redbirds career 3-pointers list during the Bradley game.

With 171 career threes, Crompton trails only Jaci McCormack (183), Jenny Schmidt (205), Katie Broadway (225) and Kristi Cirone (229).

Sycamores score upset

Indiana State also started its MVC season on a high note with a 78-70 win at Drake. Picked ninth in the league’s preseason poll, the Sycamores snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, who were forecast for second.

“They have a lot of belief in what we’re doing,” first-year Indiana State coach Chad Killinger said. “It’s a great win, something to build on.”

Evansville’s dynamic duo

At 6-6 and 0-1 in the Valley, Evansville has the league’s top two scorers in Je’Naiya Davis (19.2) and Normal Community High School graduate Abby Feit (18.2).

“You can’t pay too much attention to one or the other one is going to burn you” Purple Aces coach Robyn Scherr-Wells said. “It’s been a real strength of ours so far this season.”

Rare achievement

Missouri State coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton has won 60 of her first 70 games as Bears coach.

She is only the fourth women’s basketball coach in NCAA history to accomplish that feat.

“I was really taken aback by that,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “I’m super grateful. I think it’s having a relationship with the players and them understanding the game and understanding me.”

Bears without Franklin

Missouri State lost two-time all-MVC performer Jasmine Franklin to a season-ending injury in December. Franklin was averaging 14.9 points and 12.1 rebounds at the time.

“It’s been rough. Obviously, it’s a big blow,” said Agugua-Hamilton. “Jasmine was having an All-America type season. She’s a big, big part of what we were doing. We’ve come together and have that next woman up mentality. We thrive in adversity.”

Impressive victory

MVC favorite Missouri State’s 79-51 thrashing of Missouri on Dec. 10 looked even better 20 days later when Missouri (led by former ISU coach Robin Pingeton) knocked off No. 1 South Carolina 70-69 in overtime.

“That was a big win for Mizzou. But for us, that was huge,” Agugua-Hamilton said. “They beat the No. 1 team in the country, and we beat them pretty handily. It gives us confidence.”

Haack injured

The MVC lost a second member of its preseason all-conference team Saturday when Bradley guard Gabi Haack suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter of the loss to ISU.

“We did not get good news. We’re going to have to go on without her this year. It's unfortunate,” said Braves coach Andrea Gorski. “She’s a helluva player. She’s one of those kids who is super humble, works for everything she gets and is always so grateful. We will miss her out on the floor. She is an unbelievable leader for us.”

Haack was averaging 17.1 points. She is Bradley’s all-time leading scorer and the Valley’s career leader in 3-pointers.

Stein saying goodbye

Southern Illinois coach Cindy Stein has announced she is retiring at the end of the season, her ninth leading the Salukis.

Stein previously served as head coach at Emporia State, Illinois Central College and Missouri.

Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: pg_reinhardt

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