Redbirds Hold Off Evansville, 78-68; Advance to Semis
March 7, 2009
ST. LOUIS - Senior Champ Oguchi led three Illinois State players in double-figures with 20 points, as the Redbirds advanced in the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a 78-68 win over Evansville Friday night at the Scottrade Center. With the victory, ISU will now face No. 2-seeded Creighton in the second semifinal which tips off at 4:05 p.m.
Illinois State improved to 23-8 on the season and snapped a three-game losing streak, the longest in the Tim Jankovich-era. Evansville fell to 17-13 overall.
The Purple Aces overcame a five-point halftime deficit and forced two ties before taking their first lead of the game, 40-39, at the 16:15 mark in the second half. Illinois State responded with a 15-3 run and took a 54-43 lead with 10:38 left in the game and never looked back. The Redbirds pushed the lead to 13 points four different times, while Evansville was never able to get any closer than six points.
Osiris Eldridge and the Redbirds came out firing, as Illinois State opened the game on 5-for-7 shooting and Eldridge scored six of ISU's first eight points, while finishing with 14. With the game tied, 4-4, the Redbirds used a 7-0 run to build at 11-4 lead with 16:56 left in the half.
Evansville was held scoreless for four minutes and 16 seconds and ISU only mustered four points during the drought, but it was enough to give the Redbirds a 16-6 lead with 12:04 remaining. Over the next eight minutes the Purple Aces got their offense going, as Evansville was 6-for-6 from the field during that time and ISU slowed down with 4-for-14 shooting. As a result, Evansville used a 5-0 run and closed the deficit to 28-24 with 4:17 left in the half.
Lloyd Phillips rounded out Illinois State's double-digit scorers with 16 points and the Redbirds as a team tied the Valley Tournament record with 10 blocked shots in a single game. Shy Ely scored a game-high 29 points for Evansville, while Kaylon Williams tossed in 16 points and Jason Holsinger chipped in 10.
The two teams pretty much closed out the half matching point-for-point, as the Redbirds led 35-30 at the intermission.
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