The Purple Aces are picked to finish sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference according to the preseason poll. Sophomore D.J. Balentine currently leads the MVC in scoring.
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU VS. EVANSVILLE
RedbirdHD.tv (Live Stream): http://www.goredbirds.com/allaccess/?media=412469
LAST MEETING: PURPLE ACES TOP REDBIRDS, 79-62
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Feb. 20, 2013) - Jackie Carmichael became just the seventh player in Missouri Valley Conference history to record 1,500 points and 900 rebounds, as he reached both milestones in Illinois State's 79-62 loss at Evansville's Ford Center. The Redbirds (16-12, 7-9 Missouri Valley Conference at the time) never led against the Purple Aces (15-13, 8-8 MVC). ISU pulled within 47-41 at the 15:41 mark in the second half, but the Redbirds could not get closer. Tyler Brown was Illinois State's only player to reach double-figures, as Brown netted 21 points, with five three-pointers. Carmichael collected a game-best 14 rebounds, with seven points. Evansville's Colt Ryan led all scorers with 31 points.
HOME COURT STREAK
With Illinois State's 59-50 win over Loyola Saturday, the Redbirds have now won six-consecutive games on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena, matching ISU's longest home-court winning streak since earning six-straight home victories in 2011-12. With Wednesday night's game against Evansville, the Redbirds would extend their home-court streak to seven games for the first time in a single-season since winning seven-in-a-row at the end of the 2009-10 season. That streak extended to 12-consecutive wins in 2010-11.
MAKING A STATE-MENT
After earning a win over Loyola Saturday, Illinois State improved to a perfect 5-0 against NCAA Division I teams in the state of Illinois this season. ISU's 5-0 in-state mark is the best among Illinois' 13 D-I teams, with Northern Illinois and Western Illinois maintaining the only other undefeated records of 1-0. The Redbirds have four more chances to earn in-state victories during the regular-season.
Illinois State's defense was put to the test last week by facing the No. 2 scoring-offense in the Valley (at No. 6 Wichita State) and the No. 1 - at the time - field goal-shooting team (Loyola), which also ranked No. 10 nationally. The Redbirds turned up their defensive pressure by forcing Wichita State to match its lowest point-total of the season (66) - 11 points below WSU's average. ISU then limited Loyola to a season-low 34.0 percent from the field - 15.6 percent below its average.
FOR COMPARISON'S SAKE
Despite Illinois State featuring what is believed to be the least-experienced team in the nation, this year's Redbird squad (which features eight newcomers to NCAA Division I basketball on the current active roster) is ahead of where last year's much more experienced Redbird team was at this point in last season's conference standings, despite last year's squad consisting of four seniors and just two scholarship-newcomers. Last year's ISU team was 9-7 and 0-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference after its first 16 games, while the 2013-14 Redbirds are currently 9-7 and 2-2 in the Valley.
HUNTER THRIVES IN MVC
Redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter - along with guard Nick Zeisloft - led Illinois State in scoring with 10.5 points per game each, as the Redbirds earned a Missouri Valley Conference win over in-state rival Loyola Saturday after falling at No. 6 Wichita State Jan. 8. Hunter shot a team-best 70.0 percent (7-for-10) from the field throughout last week's games, including 40.0 percent from beyond the arc and 71.4 percent at the free throw line. He also averaged 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals and a 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio during the two-game stretch. Hunter now leads Illinois State in Missouri Valley Conference scoring (11.8 points per Valley game), rebounding (4.8) and steals (1.8).
BLOCKED BY LYNCH
After leading the state of Minnesota in high school blocked shots during the last two years, freshman center Reggie Lynch has effectively transferred his shot-blocking skills to the NCAA Division I level. Lynch has consistently led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocks this season, currently ranking first in the league and 48th in the nation (2.4 per game). Throughout the first 16 games, Lynch has blocked at least one shot in 15 contests and three or more in nine games, with a career-high four blocks recorded at No. 6 Wichita State (Jan. 8). He has 38 total blocks as he pursues the freshman single-season blocks record of 52, set by Jon Ekey in 2010-11. Lynch has led ISU in blocks in 14 games.
Along with freshman guard Reggie Lynch's Valley-best 2.4 blocks per game, he is also leading the league in field goal percentage at 60.0 percent (48-for-80). Meanwhile, teammate Bobby Hunter ranks No. 1 in MVC three-point shooting with a 48.6 percent average (17-for-35). As a team, Illinois State ranks first in Valley three-pointers - and 61st in the nation - (7.7 per game) and second in league blocks (4.3).
LOW SCORE = WINNING SCORE
Illinois State has thrived in low-scoring games this season. The Redbirds have utilized their stifling 2-3 zone defense to improve to 7-1 when allowing under 70 points. ISU is also 5-1 when scoring between 50-69 points. ISU has not reached 70 points in its last four wins; however, the Redbirds have held their opposition to 64 points or less during the same four victories.
Illinois State, which is believed to have less experience than any other NCAA Division I team, has made significant progress throughout the season. In the Redbirds' first five games (1-4), ISU averaged 68.4 points while shooting 38.3 percent and allowing opponents to shoot 45.7 percent. In contrast, the Redbirds have averaged 70.1 (+1.7) per game while shooting 40.9 percent (+2.6) and holding opponents to 40.5 percent (-5.2) through their last 11 games (8-3).
EXPERIENCE PAYS OFF
Redshirt sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft has significantly increased his productivity this season compared to where he was after four conference games last year. Zeisloft is now averaging 6.8 points per game compared to a 5.2 average after 16 games last season. Zeisloft, who now often plays the four position, has more-than doubled his rebounding average from 1.6 at this time last year to 4.0 currently.
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