ISU Holds Off Big Ten Foe Northwestern, 68-64
Daishon Knight and Zach Lofton
Daishon Knight and Zach Lofton

Nov. 17, 2013

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EVANSTON, Ill. - For the first time since 2004, the Illinois State men's basketball team knocked off a Big Ten opponent, as the Redbirds topped Northwestern, 68-64, Sunday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena. ISU (1-2) recorded its first win of the season, while NU (1-2) fell for the first time at home this year.

The Redbirds led by as many as 19 points at the 16:06 mark in the second half, but the Wildcats pulled within two with six seconds remaining. Two clutch free throws by Tony Wills with five seconds to play ultimately secured ISU's win, which was Illinois State's first true Big Ten road victory since head coach Dan Muller - as a player - helped ISU beat Northwestern in Evanston, Dec. 18, 1996. The Redbirds' last victory against a Big Ten team occurred Nov. 24, 2004, against Penn State at the BCA Classic in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Daishon Knight and Zach Lofton led four Redbirds in double-figures with 15 points each. For the second-consecutive game, Michael Middlebrooks earned a double-digit rebounding effort with 11 boards, and Kaza Keane and Paris Lee both contributed four assists. Northwestern's JerShon Cobb led the Wildcat attack with 19 points, including an 11-for-14 free throw effort. ISU shot a season-best 40.7 percent from the field, including 31.6 from beyond the arc.

ISU scored first in the game, as Lee connected with John Jones under the basket to put Illinois State ahead early, 2-0, only to watch the Wildcats score six-straight. With Northwestern ahead, 8-3, the Redbirds went on a 12-2 run that included two layups by Knight, plus a Reggie Lynch dunk and layup to increase ISU's advantage to 15-10.

Knight and Lofton teamed up to lead Illinois State on a 12-2 run with nine points by Lofton and four points from Knight to increase ISU's lead to 31-17 with 4:04 remaining in the first half. The Redbirds outscored Northwestern, 9-4, in the final minutes to take a 40-22 lead into halftime. ISU shot 51.6 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free throw line in the first half.

The Wildcats netted six-straight points to open the second half, pulling within 40-28. Illinois State again answered, this time with a 7-0 run to pull ahead, 47-28, with 16:06 remaining. Northwestern responded by outscoring ISU, 12-4, to narrow NU's deficit to 51-40, capped off by a Kale Abrahamson three-pointer. A Dave Sobolewski fast-break layup edged the Wildcats within 53-44.

A Knight three-pointer on the other end extended ISU's advantage to 58-44 with 8:14 left to play before the Wildcats went on a 16-5 run to trim Illinois State's advantage to 63-60 with 32 seconds remaining. A free throw by Lee made the score 64-60, but Cobb's layup with 23 seconds left pulled NU within two points. Lee made two more charity shots to give ISU a 66-62 lead, followed by another Cobb layup.

With five seconds remaining, Wills, who entered the game for the first time as a defensive substitution at the nine-second mark, was fouled immediately after receiving the inbounds pass. He drained his ensuing two free throws to score his first career-points and secure Illinois State's 68-64 victory.

With the team's first win secured, Illinois State returns to Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena for a mid-week matchup with Manhattan this Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 7:05 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Redbird Arena ticket office at (309) 438-8000 or by clicking here. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.