Illinois State Hosts #23 UNLV in MWC-MVC Challenge

Nov. 30, 2010

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This contest pits the champions of the Global Sports Roundball Classic and the 76 Classic, as Illinois State hosts UNLV as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge.

Tonight is the fourth meeting between the two schools, but the first since the 1977-78 season. UNLV leads the all-time series, 2-1, but the Redbirds have won the only other previous meeting in Normal, Ill., 88-84 on Feb. 3, 1977.

Illinois State: Tim Jankovich (Kansas State, 1982) is 179-103 (.635) in his 10th season as a head coach, and 76-32 (.704) in his fourth season with the Redbirds. At Illinois State, Jankovich is 40-22 against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference, 36-10 versus non-conference opponents, 47-6 at home, 20-21 on the road, 7-5 on a neutral court and he has never faced UNLV. UNLV: Lon Kruger (Kansas State, 1975) is in his seventh season at UNLV and his 25th season as a head coach. He owns a 143-62 (.698) record with the Runnin' Rebels, while boasting a 460-295 (.609) overall career mark. Prior to coaching at UNLV, Kruger has served as the head coach with the Atlanta Hawks (2000-03) and at Illinois (1996-2000), Florida (1990-96), Kansas State (1986-90) and Texas-Pan American (1982-86).


  • Illinois State is in its 41st season as a NCAA Division I program, and during that time, the Redbirds have only had seven losing seasons.
  • The Redbirds have made 17 postseason appearances, including the last three seasons with an NIT berth.
  • Over the last four seasons, Illinois State has won more overall games (76) than another other Valley school.
  • In the previous three seasons, Illinois State is the only Valley school to post at least 20 regular-season wins in each campaign.
  • Jankovich is the first coach in league history to lead his team to back-to-back Valley Tournament title games in his first two seasons.

    Illinois State has lost 20-straight games against nationally-ranked foes, including eight-straight on its home floor. The last win over a ranked team was against No. 14 Iowa (89-88) in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Dec. 29, 1987. The last home victory over a ranked team was versus No. 9 Tulsa (91-81) on March 3, 1984.


  • UNLV is located in Las Vegas, Nev., and has an enrollment of 29,000. The Runnin' Rebels are members of the Mountain West Conference. UNLV was projected to finish fourth in the MWC, according to the league's preseason poll. Senior Tre'Von Willis was tabbed as a member of the Mountain West Conference's All-Preseason Team.
  • The Runnin' Rebels return all five starters from a team which finished 25-9 last season and earned an at-large bid into the 2010 NCAA Tournament. UNLV lost in the first round to Northern Iowa, 69-66.
  • Illinois State assistant coach Rob Judson served on Lon Kruger's staff were the two were at Illinois from 1996-2000.

    It has been a while since Illinois State and UNLV have met on the hardwood. The last time the Redbirds and Runnin' Rebels met was on Jan. 13, 1978 in Las Vegas, Nev. At that time, Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States, while Annie Hall claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. The Eagles won the Grammy award for Record of the Year with "Hotel California," while Fleetwood Mac's Rumors received the award for Album of the Year. Sony also released state-of-the-art technology that year with the invention of the walkman.

    When Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich began his college coaching career back in 1983 it was a graduate assistant at Texas-Pan American, under current UNLV head coach Lon Kruger. This will be the first time either coach has been paired against one another as head coaches. When Kruger was the head coach at Texas-Pan American, he coached against Kansas State when Jankovich was an assistant on Dec. 27, 1984, in a tournament game played on UNLV's campus. K-State won, 75-68.

    In the Tim Jankovich-era, Illinois State has been nothing short of dominant during the month of November. In his four seasons with the Redbirds, ISU owns a 22-3 (.880) in the calendar's 11th month, including a 16-0 mark in November home games.

    Illinois State is in its 23rd season of basketball action on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Under head coach Tim Jankovich, the Redbirds are 49-6 (.891) when playing at home. ISU owns a 233-82 (.740) all-time record on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.

    Despite being in his first collegiate season, redshirt freshman Jon Ekey has been a key component for the Redbirds this season. He is so key, that Ekey actually leads the team in the plus/minus rating per game. During the season, Ekey owns a +8.50 rating and the Redbirds have outscored their opponents by a combined 51 points when Ekey is on the floor.

    One of the most-anticipated starts of an Illinois State career took place Sunday against Jacksonville State, as sophomore John Wilkins took the court for the first time in a Redbird uniform. In his first action in an official basketball game since the 2007-08 season, Wilkins scored four points and added six rebounds in 13 minutes of action. Per an NCAA ruling, Wilkins was forced to sit out the first five regular-season games of the 2010-11 season, as a result of playing in five games with a Belgium professional team (Verviers-Pepinster) four years ago.

    Senior Austin Hill has started this season where the 2009-10 campaign left off. In the final four games last season, Hill averaged 8.8 points per game, while shooting 61.9 percent from the floor. This season, Hill is second on the team with 10.5 points per game, while shooting 49.0 percent from the field.

    For the fifth time in school history since becoming an NCAA Division I program in 1970, Illinois State hosted an in-season tournament, including one in each of the last three seasons. In each of the hosted tournaments, the Redbirds walked away with the title, including the 2010 Global Sports Roundball Classic championship, and a perfect 13-0 record.

    Illinois State committed a season-low seven turnovers against Jacksonville State in the Redbirds' last outing, which hopefully is a good omen considering the trapping defensive pressure applied by UNLV. This season, the Runnin' Rebels are averaging 17.3 turnovers forced per game, while the Redbirds enter the game committing 12 turnovers per contest.

    The Illinois State bench has definitely left its mark during the 2010-11 season, in fact, it has accounted for 48.7 percent of the Redbirds' scoring. In each of Illinois State's games this season, the Redbird starters have been outscored by the opponent counterparts. However, in each game, the ISU bench carried the weight and has combined to score 204 points this season, or 34.0 points per contest.

    In six games this season, Illinois State has had seven individual players already post a double-digit scoring game. The Redbirds have had 17 double-figure performances to date on the campaign achieved by: Jackie Carmichael (4), Austin Hill (3), Blake Mishler (3), Trey Blue (2), Justin Clark (2), Tony Lewis (2) and Alex Rubin (1).

    Illinois State played a key role in the inaugural Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge Series, as the only one road team to walk away with a win. ISU claimed a 73-63 victory at Utah, as the Valley posted a 5-4 win in the series between the two leagues. The 2010 challenge begins tonight with four games on the slate. In addition to Illinois State-UNLV, Creighton hosts BYU, Southern Illinois hosts New Mexico and Drake travels to Colorado State. The series concludes on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 with the final five match-ups.

    Illinois State is 7-43 all-time against nationally-ranked opponents and 3-11 at home against ranked foes.

    THAT 70's SHOW
    ISU's success during the Tim Jankovich-era has been pretty much based on 70 points. When the Redbirds score 70 or more points, Illinois State owns a 44-9 record (.830) in his four seasons. When ISU opponent's score less than 70 points, the Redbirds are 67-14 (.827) during that span.

    As the most inexperienced team in the Valley entering the season, the Illinois State roster had combined to play a total of 3,257 minutes for the Redbirds. Opening the season, the Redbirds had combined to play 10 Division I seasons, which ranked ISU No. 23, as one of the most inexperienced teams in the nation.

    Upon transferring to Illinois State from Fordham, Trey Blue was touted as a shooter and scorer. He has proven to be just that, as Blue leads the Redbirds in made three-point field goals (7) and three-point field goal percentage (.500). In addition, he ranks third on the team with 9.3 points per game.

    According to the RPI Report, Illinois State has the best three-year RPI rating in the Missouri Valley Conference. Over the last three seasons, the Redbirds are averaging an RPI rating of 56.7, while Northern Iowa and Creighton are tied for second with an average of 67.3.

    Senior Tony Lewis has taken the lead rebounding role for the Redbirds this season. He is averaging 8.2 boards per game, while Lewis' offensive rebounding total (19) also accounts for 27.1 percent of ISU's entire offensive rebounds.

    Sophomore Jackie Carmichael ended his first season with the Redbirds, as the most-prolific freshman shot blocker in Illinois State history. Carmichael swatted away 46 shots during the 2009-10 season, crushing the old mark of 36 set by Mike VandeGarde during his freshman campaign in 1990-91. With 55 career blocks, Carmichael only needs four more to crack the top-10 for career blocked shots at ISU.

    Jackie Carmichael's ISU freshman shot block record might be short lived, as freshman Jon Ekey has collected 12 blocked shots this season. The Valley leader in blocks per game (2.0) is on pace to finish with approximately 62 blocked shots on the season which would not only be the freshman record, but would equal the second best single season blocked shot total in Illinois State history.

    Sophomore Jackie Carmichael, a member of the 2010 Valley All-Freshman Team, will look to become only the second Redbird to earn first team all-league honors after being named to the all-freshman team. With Carmichael, the Redbirds have had seven players named to the Valley All-Freshman Team and only Osiris Eldridge went on to earn first-team all-league accolades (three times).

    Entering his fourth year at the helm, Tim Jankovich has turned Illinois State from a probable Valley Tournament play-in team into a part of the championship conversation. Jankovich and his staff have returned ISU basketball to its glory with a record of 76-32 (.704), including a 35-19 (.648) mark in Valley regular-season games. In the three years prior to this staff's arrival, ISU was 41-48 (.461) overall and 18-36 (.333) in league play.

    Illinois State enters tonight's game against UNLV with at least one made three in 339-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton, Dec. 12, 1999.

    Illinois State, which became an NCAA Division I program prior to the 1970-71 season, enjoyed postseason play for the 17th time last season. The Redbirds have qualified for the NCAA Tournament six times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1997 and 1998) and the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) 11 times (1977, 1978, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2008, 2009 and 2010).