OU has played the toughest schedule in the country, according to USA Today and Jeff Sagarin's ratings.
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU AT OAKLAND
Horizon League Network (Live Stream): http://www.horizonleague.org/live/9628
LAST MEETING: CARMICHAEL POWERS REDBIRDS TO WIN OVER OAKLAND
NORMAL, Ill. (Feb. 18, 2012) - Illinois State received 25 points and 19 rebounds from then-junior Jackie Carmichael, as the Redbirds (17-11 at the time) used a second-half comeback to defeat the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (15-14 at the time) by a final of 79-75 in the SEARS BracketBusters game Feb. 18, 2012 on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds led for just four minutes and 19 seconds in the contest and came back to win just their third game of the season when trailing at the half. ISU improved to 8-1 at the time in initial games set up by the BracketBusters concept.
`BIRDS FLY PAST FLYERS
Illinois State earned a historic victory, as the Redbirds beat No. 25 Dayton, 81-75, on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena (Dec. 7). Led by Daishon Knight's 20-point, six-rebound effort, the Redbirds recorded their first win against a ranked opponent in Redbird Arena history. It also marked ISU's first home victory over a Top 25 program since 1984. The Dayton win was ISU's 10th-overall against a ranked opponent and the third in as many seasons after ISU beat No. 16 Creighton last season and No. 15 Wichita State in 2011-12.
DIFFICULT TO DEFEND
The Redbird have proven to be a difficult team to defend as of late, thanks in part to ISU's four-guard, one forward starting lineup over the last five games. With guard Nick Zeisloft playing the four position, Illinois State's offense has thrived. The Redbirds have not only won four out-of-their-last-five games with the new lineup, but they have earned a +9.0 scoring margin. Zeisloft, along with fellow guard Daishon Knight, have also crashed the boards, averaging 4.4 and 5.6 rebounds respectively.
IN THE ZONE
ISU's season-long four-game winning streak can be partially attributed to head coach Dan Muller's implementation of zone defense. The Redbirds, who effectively executed zone during their recent success, have increased their steals while forcing more opponent turnovers and decreasing opponent field goal percentage. During ISU's last four wins, the Redbirds have averaged 8.5 steals (compared to 5.2 in the first five games), and their opponents have averaged 15.0 turnovers (compared to 12.6 in the first five games). ISU has also held its last four opponents to 41.8 percent shooting from the field compared to 45.7 percent shooting throughout the first five games of the season.
RAISING THE MARK
In addition to improved defense, the Redbirds have also increased their offensive productivity over the last four games, resulting in a four-game winning-streak. Whereas ISU averaged 68.4 points per game on 38.3 percent field goal shooting during the first five games, the Redbirds have averaged 80.2 points on 47.3 percent shooting over their last four contests. ISU shot a season-best 62.5 percent in the second half of the Redbirds' 19-point victory over Chicago State (Dec. 4). Illinois State went on to shoot 50.0 percent from the field in ISU's upset-vicotry over No. 25 Dayton (Dec. 7).
For the second-consecutive week, junior guard Daishon Knight is the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the week. Knight led Illinois State in scoring, rebounding and assists to guide the Redbirds to a historic upset-victory over No. 25 Dayton (Dec. 7) and a win over in-state rival Chicago State (Dec. 4). Knight averaged a team-best 17.5 points per game on 13-for-29 (44.8 percent) shooting from the field, plus 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists (with a 3.00 assist-to-turnover ratio), and he was Illinois State's leading scorer and rebounder in both contests. The Redbirds have now earned Valley Newcomer of the Week honors in three out of the first five weeks, with Michael Middlebrooks receiving the honor Nov. 18. For the record, ISU earned a program-record seven Valley Newcomer of the Week honors in 2007.
Junior guard Bobby Hunter was instrumental in Illinois State's wins against Chicago State (Dec. 4) and No. 25 Dayton (Dec. 7). Not only did Hunter capitalize on scoring opportunities, but he also gathered key steals and rebounds to help ISU extend its winning streak to four games. Hunter averaged 14.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game over the last two contests, with a team best 3.0 steals per contest. Hunter's 11-for-12 (91.7 percent) free throw effort last week was also a team-best.
Now nine games into the 2013-14 season, some statistical trends are beginning to emerge related to Redbird wins. ISU is: 4-1 when the Redbirds score first, 4-1 when leading at the half, 5-0 when leading with five minutes left in regulation, 3-0 when allowing 60 points or less, 2-0 when scoring 80 or more points and 3-0 when out-shooting the opponent.
LEANING ON LYNCH
Part of Illinois State's recent success can be attributed to the play of freshman center Reggie Lynch. The Edina, Minn., native has averaged 9.0 points on 80.0 percent shooting, plus 2.3 blocks and 5.0 rebounds during ISU's four-game winning streak. Lynch currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in field goal percentage (68.2 percent) and blocks per game (2.0). He scored a career-high 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the Redbirds' win over Chicago State (Dec. 4).
ISU sophomore guard Zach Lofton has reached double-figures in eight out of ISU's nine games this year. Lofton currently ranks second in scoring (13.2 points per game) with a career-high of 19 points twice. He has led Illinois State in scoring four times this season.
A COMPETITOR AND A SCHOLAR
For the first time in his career, redshirt sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft was named the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Week (Dec. 4), marking the first such honor for an ISU male student-athlete in 2013-14. Now in its 15th year of existence, The Valley's Scholar-Athlete program honors its student-athletes for their athletic performance for a one-week period and academic success in the classroom. Throughout his entire academic career at Illinois State, Zeisloft has excelled in the classroom, earning a 3.74 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in finance. The LaGrange, Ill., native has already surpassed his single-game scoring and rebounding career-highs with a 14-point effort at San Francisco (Nov. 30) and three seven-rebound performances this season.
DePAUL TIME CHANGE
The starting time for Illinois State's home men's basketball game versus DePaul on Sunday, Dec. 22 has been changed. The game will now tip off at 3:35 p.m. CT. The game time was moved up to accommodate Comcast SportsNet Chicago's pregame Chicago Bears obligations for the Bears at Philadelphia Eagles matchup, which was switched from an afternoon kickoff to a night contest.
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