Illinois State has won six out of its last seven games to wrap up a non-conference schedule that included victories against a Big Ten team (at Northwestern, Nov. 17), a Top-25 program (vs. No. 25 Dayton, Dec. 7) and a BIG EAST opponent (vs. DePaul), all in the same season, for the first time in program history.
ISU is looking to win seven out of eight contests for the first time since a 7-1 stretch last season (Jan. 20-Feb. 13).
Since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 1981-82, the Redbirds are 15-17 in league openers.
The Redbirds are 8-9 in Valley season openers that occur on the road. Illinois State's last Valley-opening road win came at Missouri State (72-69, OT) on Dec. 28, 2008. Illinois State has won four out of its last six Valley openers.
Illinois State is 2-1 against Missouri State in Valley openers, including a perfect 2-0 in openers at MSU.
ISU junior guard Daishon Knight - who leads the Redbirds with 14.7 points per game - has made a three in every game this season. He has also reached double-figure scoring in 10-consecutive contests.
Redbird freshman center Reggie Lynch continues to lead the Missouri Valley Conference in blocks per game (2.1).
Illinois State leads the MVC and ranks 61st in the nation in three-point field goals per game (7.8).
ISU ranks third in the Missouri Valley Conference and 47th in the nation in free throw percentage (73.6 percent).
With four MVC Newcomer of the Week honors (out of six possible for ISU), the Redbirds have earned a league-high.
Redbird junior guard Daishon Knight is a three-time MVC Newcomer of the Week (Dec. 23, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9).
ISU sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft is a two-time MVC Male Student-Athlete of the Week (Dec. 4, Dec. 27).
Illinois State's fall 2013 team grade-point average (GPA) was the fifth-highest in the last 17 years.
Nick Zeisloft is one of 75 NCAA Division I nominees for the Allstate NABC Good Works Team, which recognizes basketball student-athletes who represent the sport's finest in the areas of leadership and charitable achievements.
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.
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. ABOUT THE MISSOURI STATE BEARS
Missouri State University is located in Springfield, Mo., and has an enrollment of 23,838. The Bears compete at the NCAA Division I level and are members of the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Bears return five starters from a team which finished 11-22 last season and tied for seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference (7-11).
Illinois State leads the all-time series against Missouri State, 35-26, with ISU winning the last meeting, 86-50, Feb. 27, 2013. The Redbirds are 10-18 at Missouri State and 2-3 and JQH Arena. Head coach Dan Muller is 1-1 against MSU.
The Bears are picked fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference according to the official preseason poll. Sophomore guard Marcus Marshall was named to the MVC Preseason All-Conference squad. Marshall, who was the team's top returning scorer, was also the Valley Newcomer of the Year in 2012-13.
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS BEAT BEARS ON SENIOR NIGHT, 86-50
NORMAL, Ill. (Feb. 27, 2013) - Seniors Tyler Brown and Jackie Carmichael each had stellar performances in their final game at home, as Illinois State (17-13, 8-9 MVC at the time) used a big second-half run to cruise to a 36-point victory over Missouri State (9-21, 6-11 at the time), 86-50, on Senior Night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Brown led all scorers with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including a 3-for-6 effort from three-point range. It marked Brown's 13th game this season with 20 points or more. Carmichael recorded his 14th double-double of the season and 34th of his career at ISU with 16 points and 11 rebounds, after only scoring five points in the first half.
With Illinois State's 69-64 win over BIG EAST foe and in-state rival DePaul Dec. 22, the Redbirds wrapped up their non-conference schedule with victories against a Big Ten team (at Northwestern, Nov. 17), a Top-25 program (vs. No. 25 Dayton, Dec. 7) and a BIG EAST opponent (vs. DePaul), all in the same season, for the first time in program history. It also marked just the third time that ISU has earned wins over a Big Ten and BIG EAST foe in the same season.
THIRD TIME FOR KNIGHT
For the third time this season, junior guard Daishon Knight was named the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the week (Dec. 23). The Redbirds have now earned four (out of six-possible) Valley Newcomer of the Week honors this season. Knight - who is the first and only other Redbird since Boo Richardson to receive the award three times - led Illinois State with 15.3 points per game in the Redbirds' last three contests, as ISU went 2-1, with wins over BIG EAST foe DePaul and Tennessee State. Along with leading the team in scoring throughout the three games, Knight also averaged 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Ten of Knight's 46 points came at the free throw line where he shot 83.3 percent.
A PLAYER AND A SCHOLAR
For the second time this season, sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft was named the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athletes of the Week (Dec. 27). Against Tennessee State (Dec. 19), Zeisloft scored five points and pulled down six boards, which led the Redbirds in the game. In the win against in-state rival DePaul (Dec. 22), Zeisloft was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line for 11 points. He also had two rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes. 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. He is a three-time AFNI Honor Roll member, while amassing a perfect 4.0 GPA during two out of his first four semesters.
MOMENTUM FOR MVC
ISU has won six of its last seven non-conference games following a 1-4 start to build momentum heading into Missouri Valley Conference play. ISU's 6-1 record through its last seven contests marks the Redbirds' best finish to an out-of-conference season since going 7-0 through its final seven non-conference games in 2008-09. ISU also secured its eighth-consecutive above-.500 non-conference slate.
Illinois State, which is believed to have less experience than any other NCAA Division I team, has made significant progress throughout its non-conference schedule. In the Redbirds' first five games (1-4), ISU averaged 68.4 points while shooting 38.3 percent and allowing opponents to shoot 45.7 percent. In contrast, the Redbirds have averaged 75.6 points (+7.2) per games while shooting 41.4 percent (+3.1) and holding opponents to 42.4 percent (-3.3) through their last seven games (6-1).
Now 12 games into the 2013-14 season, some statistical trends are beginning to emerge related to Redbird wins. ISU is: 6-2 when the Redbirds score first, 6-1 when leading at the half, 6-0 when leading with five minutes left in regulation, 5-0 when allowing 69 points or less, 2-0 when scoring 80 or more points, 3-0 when out-shooting the opponent, 3-1 when outrebounding the opponent, 7-3 when collecting 10 or more assists, 3-0 when forcing 10 or more steals and 4-1 when forcing more turnovers than the opponent.
Illinois State improved to 4-0 this season when forced to maintain a late lead by making free throws, as the Redbirds held off DePaul, 69-64, Dec. 22. ISU teamed up to make 11-of-12 free throws in the final five minutes to secure the non-conference victory. With the game tied, 58-58, at the 4:59 mark, Illinois State's clutch free throws proved to be the difference down the stretch. During the final three-and-a-half minutes of the game earlier in the week against Tennessee State (Dec. 19), Illinois State went 18-for-20 from the free throw line, with the Redbirds making 14-straight before finally missing one during the stretch.
Balanced offensive production and a stifling defense led Illinois State to a wire-to-wire, 64-58, victory over Tennessee State (Dec. 19) on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds hampered the Tigers all night with a swarming zone defense, as ISU tied a season-high with 10 steals and forced 16 turnovers. The Redbirds held TSU to 34.4-percent shooting from the field, and limited leading-scorer Patrick Miller to a season-low 13 points. ISU has now held its opponent under 40 percent five times this season.
DIFFICULT TO DEFEND
The Redbirds 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 eight games. With guard Nick Zeisloft playing the four position, Illinois State's offense has thrived. The Redbirds have not only won six-out-of-their-last-seven games with the smaller lineup, but they have earned a +5.1 scoring margin, plus a +3.1 turnover margin, contrasted with a -12.7 scoring margin and a -2.7 turnover margin during ISU's first four contests.
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