ISU Men's Hoops Begins USF Golden Gate Challenge Wednesday
Zach Lofton

Zach Lofton

Nov. 26, 2013

 Illinois State vs. Vermont (at USF Golden Gate Challenge) | San Francisco, Calif.
 Date  Wednesday, November 27
 San Francisco, Calif.
 10:15 p.m. CT
 War Memorial Gymnasium
 Radio  WJBC 1230 AM, FM 93.7 (Dick Luedke and Mike Matthews)
 Live Stats  USF Live Stats
 Game Notes  Illinois State Notes
 Photo Gallery  Illinois State Basketball Team in San Francisco


  • Illinois State is making its first-ever men's basketball trip to San Francisco, Calif.
  • At 2,100 miles one-way from Normal, Ill., to San Francisco, this is Illinois State's longest road trip of the regular-season and also the team's furthest journey since traveling to Stanford, Calif., in 2012 for its NIT matchup.
  • Among ISU's three opponents at the USF Golden Gate Challenge, the Redbirds are facing Vermont and Sonoma State for the first time in program history. The Redbirds own a 1-0 record against San Francisco.
  • Freshman guard Tony Wills and the Redbirds will face Wills' brother, Vermont freshman guard Harry "Dre" Wills.
  • ISU is 67-39 (.631) in regular-season tournament games, and 13-16 (.448) in regular-season title games.
  • Four out of Illinois State's first five opponents - including Vermont - are favored to win their respective conferences.
  • ISU's strength of schedule (SOS) is ranked No. 27 and its RPI is ranked No. 54 according to
  • Illinois State ranks second in the Missouri Valley Conference in blocked shots (4.3) and offensive rebounding (12.3).
  • Throughout four out of ISU's first five games this season, at least four Redbirds have recorded double-digit scoring.
  • With just 2.5 years of previous NCAA Division I basketball experience divided amongst returners Kaza Keane, Nick Zeisloft and Matt Stacho, Illinois State is believed to have less returning experience than any other Division I team.
  • Basketball Times ranked the Redbirds' 2013 recruiting class No. 29 in the nation in its June edition.
  • Illinois State is in its 44th season as a NCAA Division I program, and during that time, the Redbirds have only had eight losing seasons.
  • Throughout Illinois State's program history, the Redbirds have featured 20 All-American selections, two Missouri Valley Conference Larry Bird Valley Players of the Year, Four Valley Tournament Most Outstanding Players, 66 All-Valley Selections, six NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 NIT appearances, three Valley regular-season championships and four Valley Tournament championships.

  • The University of Vermont is located in Burlington, Vt., and has an enrollment of 12,773. The Catamounts compete at the NCAA Division I level and are members of the America East Conference.
  • The Catamounts return all five starters from a team which finished 21-12 last season and earned second place in the American East (11-5). They advanced to the championship round of the American East Tournament, where they narrowly fell to Albany. Vermont was later awarded an automatic bid to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).
  • This is the first-ever meeting between Illinois State and Vermont.
  • Vermont is the preseason favorite to win the 2014 America East Men's Basketball Championship. Senior Brian Voelkel was also voted as a member of the preseason all-conference team.
  • ISU freshman guard Tony Wills will face his brother, Dre Wills, who is also a freshman for Vermont.

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    For the first time in program history, the Illinois State men's basketball team is playing in San Francisco, Calif., at the University of San Francisco Golden Gate Challenge. ISU is also facing two teams at the challenge - Vermont and Sonoma State - for the first time ever. The only squad that the Redbirds have experience against is San Francisco, with ISU holding a 1-0 all-time record versus the Dons. Illinois State beat USF, 68-52, at the Cowboy Shootout in Casper, Wyo., on Dec. 27, 1985.


    • Vermont (1-5)
      2012-13 Record: 21-12 / America East Record / Finish: 11-5 (2nd) / Postseason: CBI Tournament
    • Sonoma State (1-2) (NCAA Division II)
      2012-13 Record: 11-16 / California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Record / Finish: 9-13 (8th)
    • San Francisco (3-3)
      2012-13 Record: 15-16 / West Coast Conference (WCC) Record / Finish: 7-9 (T5th)

    Not only will Illinois State freshman guard Tony Wills spend Thanksgiving with his Redbird basketball family, but he also has a rare opportunity to share the holiday with his brother, Harry "Dre" Wills, who is also a freshman guard on the Vermont men's basketball team. So far this season, Dre has appeared in two games with two rebounds and one block recorded.

    Four out of Illinois State's first five opponents this season are predicted to win their respective conference titles based on each of their official preseason league polls. That trend continues Wednesday, as the Redbirds begin play at the San Francisco Golden Gate Challenge against Vermont, the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference. The Catamounts are coming off of a narrow 91-90 loss at No. 6 Duke. ISU's challenging non-conference schedule has not gone unnoticed, as the Redbirds' strength of schedule (SOS) is No. 48 and its RPI is No. 71 according to the latest rankings.

    At least four Redbirds have reached double-figures in three out of ISU's first four games this season, with five players amassing double-figures in a game for the first time since November of 2012 during Illinois State's loss to Drexel (Nov. 12, 2013). So far this season, eight of ISU's players on the active roster have amassed double-figures, with Zach Lofton netting 10 or more points in all four games.

    ISU junior guard Daishon Knight led four Redbirds in double-figures with 21 points in ISU's loss to Manhattan last Wednesday. The Baltimore, Md., native scored more than half of his points from the free throw line where he was 11-for-14. He amassed more free throws than any Redbird since Tyler Brown netted 12 against Evansville last season (Jan. 26, 2013). Meanwhile, Manhattan made 34 total free throws, marking the first time since 2005 that an opponent hit more than 30 charity shots against the Redbirds.

    Illinois State fans might still be in the process of learning the names and numbers of all eight newcomers on ISU's current active roster. However, one of the easiest ones to remember is freshman center Reggie Lynch. After all, he shares his first name with ISU's mascot, Reggie Redbird. Lynch is beginning to make a name for himself on the court, as the Edina, Minn., native amassed career-highs in points (12), made-field goals (5), rebounds (5), blocks (3), steals (2), assists (1) and minutes (23) in Illinois State's lone non-conference game against Manhattan last week (Nov. 20). He also scored ISU's first seven points.

    Despite a late-game surge that saw a 16-point second-half deficit cut to four points, Illinois State fell to Manhattan, 79-70, last Wednesday (Nov. 20) at home. An 11-0 run helped ISU trim the deficit to four.

    In an effort to assist with relief efforts related to the devastating tornado that hit Washington, Ill., Nov. 17, (approximately 30 miles northwest of Normal, Ill.), the Illinois State Athletics Department collected bottled water and monetary donations for the victims affected by the EF-4 tornado at last week's men's and women's basketball games against Manhattan and Colorado State, respectively. During Saturday's women's game, the men's basketball team helped fans transport cases of water into the arena. The football team assisted with the same effort during ISU's men's game versus Manhattan (Nov. 20).


    After combining to shoot 32.0 percent from the field in Illinois State's first two games of the season, Illinois State's offensive productivity increased by 8.7 percent in the win at Northwestern (Nov. 17), as the Redbirds shot 40.7 percent from the field, including 51.6 percent in the first half. ISU also recorded a season-best 16 assists and seven blocks, plus 43 rebounds to lead the Wildcats in each category. Illinois State shot 37.7 percent against Manhattan last Wednesday (Nov. 20), but rebounding proved to be one of the key differences as the Jaspers out-rebounded ISU, 46-to-32. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.