Redbirds Hold On For Win Over UNI, Stay Perfect In Valley Play
Jan. 8, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - Sophomore guard Osiris Eldridge scored a game-high 13 points, including two free throws in the final seconds, to lead Illinois State (12-3, 4-0 MVC) past Northern Iowa (10-5, 2-2 MVC), 51-46, on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at Redbird Arena. Despite making just one field goal in the final 13 minutes of the game and struggling from the free throw line early, the Redbirds made three key free throws in the final 11 seconds to hold off the Panthers, who nearly erased a 20-point deficit. Illinois State improved to 4-0 in Valley play for the first time since 1997 and held its opponent to under 50 points for the third-straight game, its first such streak since the 1981-82 season.
Eldridge also led the Redbrids with nine rebounds and three assists. He was the only Redbird to score in double-figures, the first time that occurred all season. Senior forward Anthony Slack turned in eight points and three rebounds before he fouled out and junior guard Emmanuel Holloway chipped in seven points off the bench.
ISU made just five field goals in the second half and scored 15 points in the period, the fewest points a Redbird team has scored in a half ever in Redbird Arena. Six of those points came in the final 13 minutes, when Northern Iowa made its comeback run. The Panthers were never able to take a lead on the Redbirds, who stayed ahead from the opening basket for the fourth time this year.
Both teams struggled shooting the ball in the early going and the game was tied, 9-9, eight minutes into the action. The Redbirds quickly found their shooting touch and scored 15 unanswered points to take a double-digit lead over the Panthers, 24-9. Richardson led the charge with five points and junior guard Sead Odzic put back a missed shot for his first field goal as a Redbird. The Panthers went six minutes without a field and committed five turnovers during the Redbird run.
UNI managed to cut the lead down to nine points twice, but the Redbirds did not let them get any closer, finishing off the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 36-19 lead, their biggest of the period, into the locker room at intermission. Holloway scored five points and Eldridge added a three-pointer in the final two minutes.
Of the nine players who saw action in the first period, eight of them entered the scoring column, with five of them scoring at least five points. The Redbirds shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half, while holding the Panthers to just 30 percent, and did not make a trip to the free throw line for just the third time this season.
The second half started out at a similarly slow pace with ISU outscoring UNI 8-5 in the first eight minutes to increase its lead to 20 points, 44-24. The Redbirds were just 4-for-12 to start the second half, while Northern Iowa was 2-for-10 from the field.
UNI clawed back into the game with a 22-3 run over the next 11 minutes to cut the deficit down to pull within a point, 47-46. Guard Adam Viet led the rush with nine points and center Jordan Eglseder added six for the Panthers. Illinois State had just one field goal and committed four turnovers in the final 12:57 of the game. ISU did finally make it to the free throw line, but made just one of its first eight attempts.
Senior forward Levi Dyer extended the Redbird lead to two points with a free throw with 29 seconds remaining on the clock. Northern Iowa had a chance to tie or take the lead on the ensuing possession, but a three-pointer attempt by Eglseder was short and sophomore forward Dinma Odiakosa came down with the rebound and was fouled. Odiakosa missed the first and made the second to give ISU a three-point lead with 11.3 seconds left. Northern Iowa brought the ball down the floor and guard Jared Josten had an open look at a game-tying three, but it fell well short of the rim into the arms of Eldridge. He was fouled immediately and drained two free throws to ice the game for the Redbirds.
Illinois State hosts Evansville on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 7:05 p.m.