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Basketball drops to fourth in conference, lose to rival Redbirds

The women’s basketball team fell back into a tie for fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings after suffering a pair of conference losses last week.
The Braves (19-8 overall, 10-6 MVC) were coming off a highlight week after knocking off league-rivals Creighton and Drake, but were unable to keep the ball rolling as they fell to Illinois State on Thursday and then to Indiana State on Saturday.
“I thought we played a good, solid 18 or 19 minutes in the first half against Illinois State,” coach Paula Buscher said. “In the second half, I thought we had a good 10 minutes, but I have to give credit to Illinois State because they are a pretty darn good team.”
Bradley jumped out to a quick start against the conference-leading Redbirds, mounting an 18-6 lead in the first 7 minutes of play.
But Illinois State answered back, mounting a 15-2 run in the next 9 minutes, and another 13-4 run to finish the first half, taking a 38-33 lead into the break.
Two-time MVC Player of the Year Kristi Cirone squashed any thoughts of a Bradley comeback, as she put up 24 points in the second half to lead the Redbirds (23-4 overall, 14-1 MVC) to the 82-61 victory. 
Cirone hit six 3-pointers on the night and finished with 34 points to lead all scorers, while also adding five rebounds and five assists.
The Braves were led by senior Monica Rogers’ 14 points and also received double-digit performances from sophomore Raisa Taylor (12) and junior Skye Johnson (10).
“The final score of that game was in no way indicative of how that game went,” Buscher said. “I really liked the way we played them the second time around, and I think we’re more prepared and know different things we can do if we would meet up with them in the Valley tournament.”
Bradley then traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., to take on the Sycamores, but were beaten back 62-58.
Junior Renee Frericks led the Braves with 15 points, which included hitting 4-of-10 from beyond the arc, while Rogers grabbed her ninth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“They just came out with so much more emotion,” Buscher said. “They were fired up on their senior night and unfortunately for us, we couldn’t match that emotion on the road.”
Indiana State’s Brittany Schoen was Bradley’s Achilles heel in the game, knocking down three consecutive 3-pointers in the second half to wipe away a five-point Bradley lead.
She then hit another one down the stretch to lead the Sycamores (14-13 overall, 10-6 MVC) to a 62-58 win. Schoen finished the game with a team-high 15 points.
Bradley was trailing just 58-55 with 5.3 seconds remaining, until Sarah Paul hit a free throw to put Indiana State up by two shots.
Frericks hit a running shot from just behind the half court line to bring the Braves within one with 0.9 seconds remaining, but Paul added two more free throws to lock up the win for the Sycamores.
“We had our chances and our opportunities in that game,” Buscher said. “We had some good open looks, but they just didn’t quite drop like we needed them to drop on the road.”
After the loss, Bradley is tied with Indiana State for fourth place in the Valley standings. The Braves took on Missouri State at home on Thursday night, but results were unavailable at press time.
Bradley will finish up its regular season at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The Braves host Wichita State at Illinois Central College’s Lorene Ramsey Gymnasium.