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Courtesy: ISU Athletics
Sycamores Rally In The Second Half, Top Braves In MVC Opener
Courtesy:ISU Athletics
Danny Pfrank

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Senior Taylor Whitley sank a free throw with 7.5 seconds remaining on Friday night inside Hulman Center, completing a second half comeback for the Indiana State women's basketball team and earning the Sycamores a 55-54 victory over the Bradley Braves to open Missouri Valley Conference play.

Indiana State (9-3, 1-0 MVC) improves to 7-0 at home this season and pushes their home-court winning streak to eight games overall with the victory. ISU also extended their home winning streak against Bradley (6-6, 0-1 MVC) to 16 consecutive games.

After Bradley jumped out to an early 5-4 lead, Indiana State responded with an 8-2 run, taking their largest lead of the game at 12-7 on a three-pointer by junior Anna Munn with 14:47 remaining in the first half. The Braves responded with a 6-0 run of their own, however, regaining the lead at 13-12 with 12:26 until the break on the layup by redshirt junior Catie O'Leary.

Another trey by Munn gave Indiana State a 23-21 lead with 6:31 left on the clock until halftime, but Bradley closed the final six and a half minutes on a 12-4 run to take a 33-27 lead into the locker room. Friday's game was just the second time this season that the Sycamores have trailed at the half, after also being behind at the break on Nov. 16 at Indiana.

Sophomore Racheal Mahan was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 at the free-throw line in the first half, leading Indiana State with 10 points. Junior Kelsey Budd led Bradley with 11 points, connecting on all three of her shots from beyond the arc.

Bradley led by between nine and three points for the opening 16 minutes of the second half as Indiana State could not break through, only getting within one possession at 42-39 with 9:56 remaining following a triple by Munn. The Braves pushed their lead to nine points with 5:51 left to play, as junior Alyson Spinas-Valainis knocked down a pair of shots at the line to give BU a 49-40 lead.

Indiana State got back within striking distance with a 7-0 run over the next two minutes behind a layup and three free throws from Whitley and two more shots at the line from Mahan. Spinas-Valainis converted a layup with 3:42 remaining to push Bradley's lead back to four points, at 51-47, but Whitley stole a pass and made a layup with 2:53 left to cut the lead back to two before Munn found Mahan under the basket with the shot clock winding down to tie the game at 51-51 with 1:55 to play.

Budd and Munn traded three-pointers at 1:24 and 1:04, respectively, before Budd missed another long-range attempt that sophomore Jessica Valley rebounded with 51 seconds to play. The rebound was Valley's 11th of the game, her third double-figure rebounding game of the season and fourth of at least nine boards in the last five overall.

Indiana State called timeout with 39 seconds left to play and again with 19 seconds remaining when sophomore Travecia Franklin was trapped under the basket. Munn missed a three-pointer on the in-bounds pass, but Franklin pulled down the offensive rebound to allow for the Sycamores to go for the final shot.

Whitley was fouled going the basket by BU's Katie Yohn, sending the ISU senior to line for two shots with 7.5 seconds on the clock. Whitley missed her first attempt, but sank her second to give Indiana State their first lead of the second half at 55-54. Bradley's Shronda Butts took the ball into the front court for the Braves, but the clock expired before Spinas-Valainis could attempt a layup following a pass from Butts.

Munn and Mahan each finished with a game-high 18 points, while Whitley scored 10 of her 12 for the game in the second half alone. Valley went for a game-high 11 rebounds, one shy of her career high. Budd finished with 14 points for the Braves, going just 1-for-7 from the field in the second half.

Indiana State's victory on Friday was their first when trailing at halftime since last season's 63-51 victory over Wichita State on Senior Day when ISU trailed 29-27 at the break.

Indiana State entered the game ranking 11th on the national scale by allowing just 49.8 points per game and limited Bradley, the MVC's top-ranked offense and 21st best in the nation (75.2 PPG) to their second-lowest total of the season.

The Sycamores return to action on Sunday, Jan. 6, hosting Northern Iowa at 2:05 p.m. inside Hulman Center. The Panthers (5-8, 0-1 MVC) fell at Illinois State on Friday night, 72-41.

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