Illinois State Holds On For 67-63 Victory Over Missouri State
Bobby Hunter
Bobby Hunter

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Feb. 18, 2014

NORMAL, Ill. - A smothering Illinois State defense forced 21 turnovers from Missouri State, the most for the Bears since 2007, and clutch shots in the second half was the difference as the Redbirds (15-12, 8-7 MVC) defeated the Bears (17-10, 7-8 MVC) Tuesday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.

The home win was the 11th in the last 12 games for ISU on Doug Collins Court and the fourth in a row. ISU is also now 7-1 at home in Missouri Valley Conference play, with one home game remaining. Daishon Knight led five Redbirds in double figures with 17 points and added five assists and rebounds in the win. Bobby Hunter added 14 points, Nick Zeisloft finished with 11 points and Paris Lee and Reggie Lynch each added 10 points. Lynch added four blocks as well, tying him with Jackie Carmichael for No. 2 on the single-season list with 68.

The two teams traded baskets over the first three-plus minutes, with Missouri State taking its first lead of the game at 9-7. The lead was short-lived however, as the Redbirds answered with a 9-0 run highlighted by a three-pointer by Zeisloft and a pair of jumpers from Knight that put ISU up 16-9.

Missouri State scored a basket a minute later to cut the deficit to 16-11, but the Bears failed to score from the field for the next seven-plus minutes as the Redbirds extended the run to 19-4 and took a 26-13 advantage after five straight points from Knight with 5:29 left to play in the first half. The Bears responded with an 8-2 run to cut the lead back to single digits at 28-21 with 3:36 left in the first half.

The Redbirds kept the pressure on, scoring four quick points on a pair of free throws from Hunter and on a fast-break layup off a steal by Lee back out to double digits at 32-21 a minute later. Missouri State ended the half on a 5-0 run to cut the lead back to six points at 32-26 as the teams headed into halftime.

The Bears scored right out of the break to cut the lead to just four points at 32-28, but the Redbirds answered with three-quick points on a free throw by Lynch and a fast-break layup of a steal by Hunter to widen the lead back out to seven points at 35-28. A quick answer from the Bears courtesy of an 8-3 run cut the ISU lead to two points at 38-36 after a layup by Tyler McCullough, which forced ISU head coach Dan Muller to call a time out.

Missouri State chipped away at the single digit lead and eventually took a 46-45 lead with just under 10 minutes left to play, after Austin Ruder made three free throws after being fouled by Zach Lofton while attempting a shot from the corner. The lead was the first for the Bears since the 16:18 mark of the first half, but it did not last long as a pair of free throws from Lee a minute later gave the Redbirds the lead right back.

Illinois State maintained a small lead until a three-pointer from Ruder gave the Bears the lead at 55-53 with 6:02 left in the game. Once again, the Redbirds answered quickly when Zeisloft hit his third three-pointer of the game on the ensuing possession to give ISU the advantage at 56-55. The back-and-forth continued, as Ruder hit a three on MSU's next turn down the court to give the Bears the lead back at 58-56, before a layup by Lynch knotted the game at 58-58 with 4:26 remaining on the clock.

Neither team scored over the next two minutes, until Zeisloft was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to put the Redbirds up 60-58. Two more makes from the charity stripe from Knight 30 seconds later put the Redbirds up four points at 62-58 with two minutes remaining. A pair of missed free throws from Knight opened up an opportunity for Missouri State, as the Bears cut the lead to two points at 65-63 on a layup by Devon Thomas with 10 seconds left.

Lee was fouled on the ensuing in-bounds pass and made both of his free throws to put the Redbirds up by four points and Missouri State's final shot attempt fell short as ISU came away with the victory.

Illinois State hits the road Sunday for a road contest against the Northern Iowa Panthers. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m., from the McLeod Center, with the game broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago as part of the MVC television package.

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