Eldridge, Redbirds Stop Evansville Run; Win 70-68
Feb. 11, 2009
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Illinois State's Osiris Eldridge drove the lane for the game-winning layup with one second remaining in a Missouri Valley Conference game against Evansville at Roberts Stadium Wednesday night, to give the Redbirds a 70-68 win in a thriller.
Eldridge's winning shot stopped the bleeding, as the Redbirds surrendered a 26-point first half lead. But the win marked the second-straight road victory for Illinois State and gave the Redbirds 20 wins on the season to only five losses. ISU also improved to 9-5 in the Valley, while Evansville dropped to 15-9 overall and 7-7 in the league.
The Purple Aces shook off their first-half performance and responded with a 33-14 run to open the second half, which included a 12-0 spurt at one point. With ISU leading 59-57 and 4:16 on the clock, Champ Oguchi scored his seventh-straight point with a two-point basket on the wing.
Evansville closed the gap to two points three more times, before Nate Garner's free throw put the Aces within one point at 65-64 with 1:27 on the clock. ISU maintained its lead until James Haarsma picked up a loose ball on a missed free throw by Garner that bounced around the court aimlessly for several seconds. With the game tied, the stage was set for Eldridge's heroics.
Evansville jumped out to a 6-1 lead to open the game, but then the Redbirds started to click. Trailing 10-7 with 14:03 left in the first half, Illinois State used a 32-3 run to build a 39-13 lead over the next 11 minutes. Evansville bounced back in the final three minutes of the half and the Redbirds led 45-24 at the break. Eldridge led ISU with 11 first-half points, while Brandon Holtz and Dinma Odiakosa each chipped in eight points in the first 20 minutes of action.
Illinois State shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and outrebounded Evansville, 20-9, during that span. The Purple Aces fired a 65.4 shooting percentage in the second half and scored 30 of their 44 second-half points.
Shy Ely led Evansville with a game-high 24 points, including 16 in the second half. Garner was the only other Ace in double-digit scoring with 13.
Illinois State will continue its road swing with a 6:05 p.m. game at Drake Sunday. The game from the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa, will be televised on ESPNU.