ISU Comeback Falls Short; Niagara Wins 70-56
Feb. 20, 2009
NIAGARA, N.Y. - The Illinois State men's basketball team fell on the losing end of a televised ESPNU BracketBusters game for a first time in four tries, as the Redbirds fell behind by 20 points in the first half, their largest deficit of the season, and were unable to mount a successful comeback in a 70-56 loss to Niagara at the Gallagher Center Friday night.
With the loss, ISU fell to 22-6 on the season, while suffering its first non-conference loss of the year. Niagara improved to 22-7.
The Redbirds worked the entire second half to get the Niagara lead to under 10 points, and thanks to 10-straight points by Champ Oguchi, ISU cut the lead to 56-48 with 5:54 left. Brandon Sampay added another basket for the Redbirds and ISU trailed 56-50 with 5:18 remaining. That proved to be as close as the Redbirds would get, as Niagara outscored ISU 14-6 over the final five minutes.
Both teams came out of the gate a little sluggish, as the score was tied 6-6 with 14:32 left in the first half. Niagara quickly gained control of the game thanks to a 14-0 run and took a 20-6 edge with 11 minutes remaining. The Redbirds didn't let the lead get any bigger until the Purple Eagles used a 6-0 spurt to push the lead, 35-15, with 3:55 on the clock. The 20-point deficit was the largest by the Redbirds this season.
Illinois State cut into the lead by holding Niagara scoreless for the final 3:55 and closed the first half with an 8-0 run for the 35-23 halftime score. The Redbirds shot only 30.8 percent (8-for-26) in the first half and was 1-for-5 on three-pointers.
Oguchi tossed in 14 points in the second half and led the Redbirds with 19. Emmanuel Holloway chipped in 10 points and Sampay notched his second career double-double with 10 points and a career-best 11 rebounds.
Tyrone Lewis led Niagara with 19 points and Bilal Benn and Rob Garrison tossed in 17 and 10 points, respectively.
Illinois State returns to Valley play Tuesday night, when the Redbirds host conference co-leader Northern Iowa on Doug Collins Court for a 7:05 p.m. tip-off.