The Tigers are picked to finish fifth in the OVC East Division according to the official 2013-14 preseason Ohio Valley Conference poll.
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU VS. TENNESSEE STATE
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS HOLD OFF TENNESSEE STATE, 73-68
NORMAL, Ill. (Nov. 17, 2010) - Illinois State guard Justin Clark scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, as Illinois State saw a large halftime lead dwindle to single digits before holding on for a 73-68 win over Ohio Valley Conference foe Tennessee State Nov. 17 on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. With the win, the Redbirds extended the their winning streak to 25-straight wins against members of the OVC at the time. Clark finished the game 7-of-14 from the field, including a 6-for-12 effort from three-point range, to finish with a career-high 20 points. Nine Redbirds scored in the game, with Jackie Carmichael adding 11 points and seven rebounds. The Tigers had five players score in double figures, led by Patrick Miller (now a senior) and Wil Peters with 14 points each.
ISU VS. OVC
Illinois State has won 29-straight games against members of the Ohio Valley Conference, and head coach Dan Muller is 1-0 against the OVC while at ISU after earning an 83-57 victory against Austin Peay last season on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena (Dec. 22, 2012). Against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference, the Redbirds own a 96-53 all-time record (.644).
OHIO VALLEY CONNECTIONS
Associate head coach Dana Ford and assistant coach Torrey Ward both gained experience as coaches in the Ohio Valley Conference before ultimately landing at Illinois State in 2012. Ford served as an assistant coach at Tennessee State from 2009-11. He was instrumental in recruiting talented classes for the Tigers, which played key roles in the team's 20-13 record in 2011-12. Meanwhile, Ward worked at Jacksonville State as a volunteer coach from 2003-04, and then, as an assistant coach from 2004-2006. In 2005-06, Ward helped the Gamecocks, a preseason 10th-place pick in the OVC, win 10 of their final 13 games to finish fourth in the league standings and reach the semifinals of the OVC Tournament.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
After starting the season 1-4, the Redbirds have bounced back to win four out of their last five games, including a marquee victory over No. 25 Dayton (Dec. 7). Illinois State has also earned back-to-back home victories during the stretch. Head coach Dan Muller is now 14-9 against non-conference opponents and 8-3 versus non-conference foes on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
Now 10 games into the 2013-14 season, some statistical trends are beginning to emerge related to Redbird wins. ISU is: 4-2 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.
TOP OF THE VALLEY
Illinois State currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference and ranks 85th in the nation in three-point field goals per game, and the Redbirds rank second in the MVC in blocks per game (4.1).
LOSING THE LEAD
Despite leading by as many as 12 points in the first half of Monday night's game at Oakland, Illinois State ultimately lost to the Golden Grizzlies, 90-75, marking the second time throughout ISU's first 10 games this season that the Redbirds have allowed a double-digit advantage erode into a double-digit defeat. ISU led by as many as 18 points against Vermont (Nov. 27), before losing, 87-76. ISU has led at some point in all but one game this season, and the Redbirds will continue to focus on maintaining their leads.
WHEN THERE'S A WILL(S), THERE'S A WAY
A bright spot in Illinois State's loss at Oakland Monday night was the performance of freshman point guard Tony Wills who earned career-highs in points (12), rebounds (6), assists (4), field goals (4) and minutes (23). Wills' productivity has consistently increased. While he averaged 1.0 points through his first four games, he has averaged 5.2 points through the last five contests.
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 six 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-six games with the new lineup, but they have earned a +5.0 scoring margin. Zeisloft, along with fellow guard Daishon Knight, have also crashed the boards, averaging 4.0 and 5.3 rebounds, respectively, during the last six contests.
RAISING THE MARK
In addition to improved defense, the Redbirds have also increased their offensive productivity over the last five games, resulting in four victories during that stretch. Whereas ISU averaged 68.4 points per game on 38.3 percent field goal shooting during the first five games, the Redbirds have averaged 79.2 points on 45.1 percent shooting over their last five 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).
DePAUL TIME CHANGE
The starting time for Illinois State's home men's basketball game versus DePaul this 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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