The Bears are picked fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference according to the official preseason poll. Jarmar Gulley leads MSU with 14.8 points per game and 12-straight double-figure scoring games.
WHERE TO WATCH: ILLINOIS STATE VS. MISSOURI STATE
ESPN Full Court: Comcast: 836; DirecTV: 723
LAST MEETING: MISSOURI STATE HOLDS OFF REDBIRDS IN OVERTIME
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Jan. 2, 2014) - After Illinois State led for nearly 39 minutes of its Missouri Valley Conference opener at Missouri State, the Bears (11-2, 1-0 MVC at the time) came from behind to force overtime and ultimately beat the Redbirds (7-6, 0-1 MVC at the time), 78-70, at JQH Arena. ISU shot 58.1 percent in the first half, but was held to 34.6 percent in the second. Meanwhile, Missouri State went 4-for-5 and outscored the Redbirds, 12-4, in the five-minute overtime period. Daishon Knight led Illinois State with 15 points and seven rebounds, plus four assists and one block. Bobby Hunter (11), Paris Lee (10) and Tony Wills (10) also reached double-digit scoring. MSU's Jarmar Gulley led the game with 22 points.
For a program-record fourth time, junior guard Daishon Knight is the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the week (Feb. 17). The Redbirds have now earned a league-best five Valley Newcomer of the Week honors this season. Knight - who is the first-ever Redbird to earn MVC Newcomer of the Week four times - passed Boo Richardson's former record of three honors during the 2006-07 season. Knight and Loyola freshman Milton Doyle both lead the league with four Valley Newcomer of the Week honors in 2013-14. Additionally, ISU's five honors this season are the most since earning seven in 2006-07.
Illinois State junior guard Daishon Knight scored a career-high 26 points on 8-for-12 shooting - including a career-best five three-pointers - to lead ISU past I-74 Rival Bradley Saturday night. Knight netted 20 points for the fourth time in his career and the first time in Missouri Valley Conference-play. His 26 points were the most netted by a Redbird since Tyler Brown's 28-point performance March 8, 2013, versus Northern Iowa.
Redbird sophomore forward Jamaal Samuel has earned career-highs in three-out-of-the-last-four games while filling the role vacated by forward John Jones who suffered a broken foot at Indiana State (Jan. 25). In ISU's win over Northern Iowa (Feb. 5), Samuel scored a career-high 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting. He then blocked a career-best four shots at Evansville (Feb. 12) followed by a career-high eight-rebound performance in ISU's win over I-74 Rival Bradley Saturday night.
Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena has proven to be a challenging place for opponents to win this season, with ISU earning a 10-3 home-court record in 2013-14, including a 6-1 mark against Missouri Valley Conference foes. ISU has won 10-out-of-its-last-11 games at home, including an 81-75 victory over No. 25 Dayton (Dec. 7) for the Redbirds' first victory over a Top-25 opponent in arena history. With ISU's win over Bradley Saturday night, the Redbirds secured their eighth-consecutive season with at least 10 victories at Redbird Arena.
With just four regular-season games remaining, Illinois State enters Tuesday night's contest versus Missouri State in a three-way tie for third place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with a 7-7 league record (the complete standings are listed on pg. 19). ISU's next two games are against the two teams that ISU is tied with in the standings (vs. Missouri State Feb. 18, vs. Northern Iowa Feb. 23). ISU is 0-1 against Missouri State and 1-0 versus Northern Iowa this season.
NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE COMES INTO PLAY
The 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament is 16 days away (as of Tuesday). Records in head-to-head competition are compared (in both two-way and multiple-team ties) with the higher seed going to the team that has won the most games against the other(s). If head-to-head competition does not break the tie, the deadlock will be broken by non-conference schedule strength as calculated by The RPI Report on the day before the final day of conference games. ISU's success during its challenging non-conference schedule could play a role in the Redbirds' Valley Tournament seed. ISU's success during its challenging non-conference schedule could play a role in the Redbirds' Valley Tournament seed. Illinois State is currently No. 3 in the league with a 157 NCSS.
After Illinois State's 70-54 win over I-74 Rival Bradley Saturday night, the Redbirds won their seventh-straight over the Braves on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. The seven-game run ties the longest home-court winning streak for ISU, matching a seven-game stretch from 1992-98.
Illinois State is one of only two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference to feature two players shooting 50 percent or better from the field this season. Freshman center Reggie Lynch ranks second in the league with a 59.8 percent average, while redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter is sixth in the league with a 50.0 percent shooting-clip.
UNDER 70 SUCCESS
The Redbirds - who rank second in league-field goal percentage defense (42.8 percent) - have statistically proven that holding teams under 70 points is a recipe for success. With a 70-54 win over Bradley (Feb. 15), Illinois State improved to 11-2 when holding its opponents to 69 points or less this season. Conversely, ISU is 3-10 when its opponents net 70 or more points.
ISU's primary zone defense has continued to effectively challenge the opposition since the Redbirds began utilizing it in their fifth game of the season. Illinois State currently ranks No. 2 in field goal percentage defense (42.8 percent) among Missouri Valley Conference teams. With ISU's four-guard lineup - including redshirt junior Bobby Hunter and freshman guard Paris Lee who both rank in the top-10 among Valley players with averages of 1.6 and 1.5, respectively - the Redbirds lead the Valley in steals (7.5) per game. With freshman center and league-leading shot blocker Reggie Lynch in the middle of the zone, ISU ranks second in league-blocks (4.5), and ISU is No. 2 in defensive rebounds, with 25.3 per game.
The Redbirds surmounted a 25-point second-half deficit at Evansville to briefly take a one-point lead - and ultimately - force overtime; however, the Purple Aces held off ISU in OT, 104-98, Feb. 12. After allowing Evansville to score a season-high 54 first-half points compared to ISU's 33, the Redbirds outscored UE in the second half, 61-40, marking ISU's first 60-point half since tallying 60 against Southeast Missouri State Nov. 28, 2009. ISU was on the brink of earning its largest comeback in program history, with the Redbirds previously overcoming a 21-point deficit to beat Butler Nov. 27, 1989.
ZEISLOFT FOR THREE!
ISU redshirt junior Nick Zeisloft was instrumental in ISU's comeback-attempt at Evansville (Feb. 12), scoring a career-high 18 points, including four threes. He also blocked a career-best two shot in a career-high 33 minutes of action while matching a career-best five field goals. Zeisloft has been hot lately, also earning a then-career-high 15 points versus Drake (Feb. 1).
HUNTER'S HOME IN THE VALLEY
ISU redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter has significantly increased his productivity in the Redbirds' 14 Missouri Valley Conference games this season. Hunter has not only netted double-figures in 12-out-of-14 Valley games, but he also leads ISU in Valley-play with 12.0 points (team-high) on 50.9 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists (team-high) and 1.7 steals (team-high) per game. During non-conference play, Hunter averaged 9.5 points on 48.4 percent shooting, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals.
LYNCH BUILDS RECORD
After earning the single-season blocks record for a freshman with a pair of stuffs against Drake (Feb. 1), center Reggie Lynch has extended the record to 64 while matching his career-high with four blocks in ISU's win over Bradley Saturday night. The previous freshman mark was 52. Lynch is now in third place on the single-season blocks list, behind Jeff Wilkins (103 in 1976-77) and Jackie Carmichael (68 in 2012-13) and is already tied for No. 13 on the career-blocks list. Lynch leads the league and ranks 37th nationally in blocks per game (2.5).
LEE-DING IN STEALING
With 38 steals this season (1.5 per game) freshman guard Paris Lee is in search of his own freshman record. The single-season freshman steals mark is 57, set by Ron Jones in 1976-77. Lee forced a career-high six steals at VCU Nov. 8, which was one shy of a matching a program record for single-game steals.
FOR COMPARISON'S SAKE
Despite Illinois State featuring 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 even with where last year's more-experienced Redbird team was at this point in league-play. Last year's ISU team was 7-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference (16-10 overall), while the 2013-14 Redbirds are currently 7-7 and 14-12.
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