The Salukis are picked eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference according to the official preseason poll. Senior guard Desmar Jackson was named to the MVC Preseason All-Conference squad. Jackson averaged 15.1 points and 5.4 rebounds last year for the Salukis, and he is averaging 20.6 this season.
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU VS. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS ROUT SALUKIS, 83-47
NORMAL, Ill. (Feb. 2, 2013) - The Illinois State men's basketball team (13-10, 4-7 MVC at the time) jumped out to an early lead against Southern Illinois (8-14, 1-10 MVC at the time) and never looked back, running away with an 83-47 victory, on retro night, Feb. 2, on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. The 36-point margin of victory is the second-largest this season for the Redbirds, and the fourth-worst loss in Southern Illinois history. Tyler Brown led all players with 16 points, on 5-for-9 shooting and 3-for-5 from three-point range. Jackie Carmichael recorded his 11th double-double of the season and the 31st of his career, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. All 12 players dressed saw action, with 11 scoring, including walk-on freshman Matt Stacho's first-career points.
Illinois State put together one of its best 20 minutes of basketball this season when the Redbirds shot a season-high 58.1 percent in the first half of Thursday night's Missouri Valley Conference opener at Missouri State. The Redbirds manufactured 10 points off of MSU turnovers forced by Illinois State's zone defense, and ISU out-rebounded the Bears, 18-14, in the opening stanza to take a 10-point halftime lead. However, MSU chipped away in the second half to force overtime and ultimately beat Illinois State, marking the first time this season that the Redbirds let a lead with five minutes remaining in regulation slip away.
Along with Illinois State's solid first half at Missouri State, a couple of other bright spots surrounding the Redbirds' Valley opener included the play of junior guard Bobby Hunter and freshman guard Paris Lee. Hunter collected career-highs in rebounds (6), three-point field goals (3) and minutes (34). Meanwhile, Lee earned a career-high with five rebounds while scoring 10 points in a career-best 35 minutes.
BLOCKED BY LYNCH
After leading the state of Minnesota in high school blocked shots during the last two years, freshman guard Reggie Lynch has effectively transferred his shot-blocking skills to the NCAA Division I level. Lynch has consistently led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocks this season, currently ranking first in the league and 59th in the nation (2.2 per game). Throughout the first 13 games, Lynch has blocked at least one shot in 12 contests and at least three in six games. He has 28 total blocks as he pursues the freshman single-season blocked-shots record of 52, set by Jon Ekey in 2010-11. Lynch has led ISU in blocks 11 times.
Along with freshman guard Reggie Lynch's Valley-best 2.2 blocks per game, he is also leading the league in field goal percentage (65.0) (39-for-60). Meanwhile, teammate Bobby Hunter ranks No. 1 in MVC three-point shooting with a 50.0 percent average (13-for-26). As a team, Illinois State ranks first in Valley three-pointers - and 52nd in the nation - (7.8 per game) and second in league blocks (4.4).
A KNIGHT-MARE TO GUARD
Junior guard Daishon Knight continues to lead Illinois State in scoring (14.7 points per game), assists (2.6 - tied with Paris Lee) and rebounds (4.6). He has now netted double-figures in 11-consecutive games - with a made-three pointer in every contest - and Knight has led the Redbirds in scoring during nine of their first 13 contests. He has also led ISU's rebounding-effort in a team-best five games this season.
EXPERIENCE PAYS OFF
Illinois State's only two scholarship-returners - Kaza Keane and Nick Zeisloft - have both increased their offensive productivity this season compared to where they were after one conference game last year. Zeisloft is now averaging 6.5 points per game compared to a 5.2 average after 13 games last season, and Keane is averaging 3.5 compared to 3.2. Zeisloft, who now often plays the four position, has more-than doubled his rebounding average from 1.8 at this time last year to 4.2 now.
THIRD TIME FOR KNIGHT
For the third time this season, junior guard Daishon Knight was named the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the week (Dec. 23). The Redbirds have now earned four (out of six-possible) Valley Newcomer of the Week honors this season. Knight - who is the first and only other Redbird since Boo Richardson to receive the award three times - led Illinois State with 15.3 points per game, as ISU went 2-1, with wins over BIG EAST foe DePaul and Tennessee State. Along with leading the team in scoring throughout the three games, Knight also averaged 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Ten of Knight's 46 points came at the free throw line where he shot 83.3 percent.
With Illinois State's 69-64 win over BIG EAST foe and in-state rival DePaul Dec. 22, the Redbirds wrapped up their non-conference schedule with victories against a Big Ten team (at Northwestern, Nov. 17), a Top-25 program (vs. No. 25 Dayton, Dec. 7) and a BIG EAST opponent (vs. DePaul), all in the same season, for the first time in program history. It also marked just the third time that ISU has earned wins over a Big Ten and BIG EAST foe in the same season.
Illinois State, which is believed to have less experience than any other NCAA Division I team, has made significant progress throughout the season. In the Redbirds' first five games (1-4), ISU averaged 68.4 points while shooting 38.3 percent and allowing opponents to shoot 45.7 percent. In contrast, the Redbirds have averaged 74.9 points (+6.5) per games while shooting 41.9 percent (+3.6) and holding opponents to 42.2 percent (-3.5) through their last eight games (6-2).
MOMENTUM FOR MVC
ISU won six of its last seven non-conference games following a 1-4 start to build momentum heading into Missouri Valley Conference play. ISU's 6-1 record through its last seven non-conference contests marked the Redbirds' best finish to an out-of-conference season since going 7-0 through its final seven non-conference games in 2008-09. ISU also secured its eighth-consecutive above-.500 non-conference slate.
Balanced offensive production and a stifling defense led Illinois State to a wire-to-wire, 64-58, victory over Tennessee State (Dec. 19) on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds hampered the Tigers all night with a swarming zone defense, as ISU tied a season-high with 10 steals and forced 16 turnovers. The Redbirds held TSU to 34.4-percent shooting from the field, and limited leading-scorer Patrick Miller to a season-low 13 points. ISU has now held its opponent under 40 percent five times this season.
DIFFICULT TO DEFEND
The Redbirds have proven to be a difficult team to defend as of late, thanks in part to ISU's four-guard, one forward starting lineup over the last nine games. With guard Nick Zeisloft playing the four position, Illinois State's offense has thrived. The Redbirds have not only won six-out-of-their-last-eight games with the smaller lineup, but they have earned a +3.7 scoring margin, plus a +2.4 turnover margin, contrasted with a -12.7 scoring margin and a -2.7 turnover margin during ISU's first four contests.
REDBIRD ARENA'S SILVER ANNIVERSARY
On Jan. 11, 1989, the Illinois State men's basketball team hosted its first-ever game at the newly-opened Redbird Arena. ISU beat Chicago State that day, 71-70. Redbird Arena will celebrate its 25th anniversary as the home of ISU men's basketball Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 versus Loyola in the arena's 369th game.
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