ISU Vies For Fifth-Straight 20-Win Season on the Road

March 2, 2011

 Date  Thursday, March 3

 7:05 p.m.

 Radio  WJBC
 Live Stats
 Game Notes  Illinois State // Bradley

 Date  Saturday, March 5

 3:05 p.m.

 Radio  WJBC
 Video  None
 Live Stats  GameTracker
 Game Notes  Illinois State // Northern Iowa

The regular season comes to a close this weekend for Illinois State and the Redbirds need just one win to secure their fifth-consecutive 20-win season. ISU visits Bradley Thursday at 7:05 p.m. and Northern Iowa Saturday at 3 p.m. A win in either game would secure the 14th 20-win season in program history and extend the program's record streak to five-consecutive 20-win seasons.

ISU makes its first visit to new Renaissance Coliseum, but the Redbirds have won four-straight games in Peoria in two different facilities.

Northern Iowa has clinched the MVC regular-season title, but ISU will look for a second-straight season sweep. ISU has won three of the last four games in the McLeod Center.

Illinois State leads the all-time series with Bradley, 40-17. The two teams have met at least twice each year since 1984. While Bradley has never won more than two-consecutive games over ISU, the Redbirds have four winning streaks of at least four games. ISU is currently on an 11-game winning streak dating back to 2006, with nine of those wins coming by double-digits. Last season, the Redbirds won both meetings by an average of 14 points and won both meetings in 2008 by 33 points each. Illinois State has won four-straight games in Peoria (two at Robertson Field House, two at Ramsey Gymnasium).

Illinois State opened Valley play with a win for the fifth-consecutive season, beating Bradley, 83-69, Dec. 30. Four Redbirds scored in double-figures, led by 15 from Emily Hanley and Katie Broadway. The two teams combined for 48 points in the first nine minutes of the game and ISU held on to a 43-40 lead at the half. A 10-4 run to start the second half put Bradley back on top, 50-47. ISU answered with a 14-5 run to take the lead for good, 69-58. The Braves pulled within single-digits twice, but couldn't stage a comeback. Raisa Taylor scored 20 points for Bradley to lead all players.

Illinois State leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa, 37-23. The series began in 1976 and is the fourth-longest in program history. ISU started the series with a 28-3 record, which included a 22-game winning streak. Since then, UNI holds a 20-9 advantage in the series. The Redbirds have won consecutive games just once during that stretch, winning both regular-season meetings last year. UNI upset ISU in the State Farm MVC Tournament Semifinals last season, 61-59, en route to winning the tournament title. ISU is 3-10 on the road against UNI since 1998, with those three wins coming in the last four years.

A late run propelled Illinois State past Northern Iowa, 69-60, in a New Year's Day matchup. In a tightly-contested game with numerous runs, ISU pulled away with a 10-2 spurt in the final minutes. Hannah Spanich led ISU with 18 points, the most she has scored as a Redbird, to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Emily Hanley added 17 points and six rebounds. With the score tied at 32 at halftime, Emily Hanley and Spanich each scored five points in the first three minutes to put ISU ahead, 42-34. UNI answered quickly with a 10-2 run to tie the score again at 44. With the score tied at 49, ISU used a 10-2 run of its own in just over five minutes to take the lead for good, 59-51. UNI made just three field goals in the final eight minutes of play, with two of them coming in the final minute.

Northern Iowa has already clinched the MVC regular-season championship with a 15-1 conference record. The Panthers are in a similar situation that Illinois State was in last season. The Redbirds were also 15-1 heading into the final weekend of conference play, with their one loss coming to Creighton in the second game of conference play. The Redbirds were on a 14-game winning streak when they lost at Creighton in the final weekend. UNI is currently on a 14-game Valley winning streak since losing at Illinois State on New Year's Day.

Illinois State needs one win in the final weekend of the regular season to secure the 14th 20-win season in program history and the fifth consecutive. The current string of four-consecutive 20-win seasons is the first in program history and the Redbirds have reached the 20-win plateau in the regular season in all four years. The recent success is even more remarkable considering that in the 16 seasons between 20-win seasons (1991-2006), ISU averaged just 11.6 wins per year.

For the first time since 2008, Illinois State enters the final weekend of the regular season with its seeding for the State Farm MVC Tournament uncertain, with the potential to finish second, third or fourth. The Redbirds are currently in third place, with the same amount of losses as Creighton, but one less win. Missouri State is one game behind the Redbirds in fourth place. The Redbirds split the regular-season meetings with both teams, but hold the tiebreaker as the only team to beat Northern Iowa. ISU needs to win at least one game this weekend for a chance to finish in second place.

Illinois State's losses at Drake and Creighton dropped the Redbirds to 5-8 on the season away from Redbird Arena (including neutral site games). The Redbirds are 2-5 on the road in Valley play. ISU is scoring 65.5 points per game and shooting 40.1 percent on the road, as opposed to scoring 74.2 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent at home.