Drake was projected to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll, as compiled by league coaches, media and sports information directors. The Bulldogs had two players selected to the 2008 Preseason Missouri Valley All-Conference Team, including senior Jonathan Cox and junior Josh Young.
Not only would a loss tonight against Drake mark a three-game losing streak for the Redbirds, who started the season with 14-straight wins, but it would be the longest losing skid in the Tim Jankovich-era at Illinois State. The last time the Redbirds lost three-straight games was in February 2007.
HOME SWEET HOME
After two-straight road losses, the Redbirds are eager to return to Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Illinois State boasts a perfect 8-0 record at home this season, including a 2-0 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference.
IN-SEASON MEDIA CONFERENCES
ISU Athletics Media Relations will host seven in-season media conferences during the 2008-09 season. Each conference will feature head coach Tim Jankovich and a member of the ISU basketball team. The media conferences will start at 1 p.m., and be held in the Redbird Arena Media Room, which is just off the southwest loading dock. The scheduled dates are: Jan. 23, Jan. 29, Feb. 23 and March 3.
Teleconferences with The Valley head coaches will be conducted each Tuesday throughout the season. The first teleconference is slated for Dec. 16, followed by every Tuesday from Jan. 6 to March 3. The conferences begin at 10 a.m. CT. To participate in the conference calls, call 913.981.5517. Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich will participate at 10:30 a.m.
BOUNCING BACK FROM A LOSS
For the second time this season, Illinois State has the opportunity to bounce back after a loss. In the Tim Jankovich-era, the Redbirds boast an 8-3 record in games that follow a defeat.
Sure, it's a little early to be talking about a conference championship. However, in the history of the conference, 17 teams have started a season 13-0 or better, including Illinois State's 14-0 start this season, and 14 of those teams went on to win the Valley championship. Only Bradley in 1951 and Indiana State in 1978 did not win the championship after starting the season with 13-plus wins.
If anything can go wrong, it will. And boy did it for the Redbirds last week. It all started with senior Champ Oguchi suffering from back spasms hours before Tuesday night's game at Bradley. Then the following day, starting point guard Lloyd Phillips encountered flu-like symptoms and wasn't able to practice heading into the Indiana State game. On Saturday night, minutes before the opening tip at Indiana State, Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Player of the Year Osiris Eldridge was scratched from the starting lineup after following in Phillips' footsteps. The result? An 0-2 record and an end to the school-record 14-game win streak.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES
Prior to last week, the Redbirds were soaring with the nation's-best 14-game winning streak, but after a couple of road losses last week, Illinois State finds itself at 14-2. Before the back-to-back losses, the Redbirds were shooting 46.5 percent from the field, but shot 39.2 percent last week. ISU was also shooting 40.5 percent on threes, but shot 25 percent on treys combined at Bradley and Indiana State. The Redbirds also held a +6.4 rebounding margin during the win streak and slipped to -2.5 in the two losses.
Illinois State's 75-70 overtime loss at Indiana State marked the second overtime game for the Redbirds this season. Illinois State has not played two overtime games in the same season since the 2005-06 campaign, where the Redbirds also posted a 1-1 record in extra-period games. If the opportunity presents itself, ISU has not played three overtime games in a season since the 1999-2000 season.
A WINNING TRADITION
In the 37 years of being an NCAA Division I program, the Redbirds have had just seven losing seasons.
In the last three games, junior Dinma Odiakosa has really been a force inside offensively. Odiakosa is averaging 12.3 points per game during that span, while shooting 16-for-22 (.727) from the field.
For the first time since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 1982, Illinois State posted back-to-back 20-plus-point wins over league foes. ISU downed Evansville, 80-50, before topping Creighton, 86-64.
GETTING 40 HASN'T BEEN EASY
Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich will have his third chance to get his 40th victory with the Redbirds tonight against Drake. Jankovich and the Redbirds have been defeated twice since going for No. 40, but a win tonight would make him the fastest ISU men's basketball coach to win 40 games for the Redbirds. Jankovich could capture his 40th victory at ISU in his 52nd game on the bench. Former head coach Gene Smithson won his 40th game at ISU in his 53rd try.
At Bradley, Illinois State grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. It marked the 10th game this season where the Redbirds have pulled down double-digit offensive rebounds. On the season, ISU is averaging 11.5 offensive rebounds per game.
JUST IMAGINE ...
If the three-point line was not moved back a foot. Through 16 games, the Redbirds are averaging a would-be school-record 9.3 made three-pointers per game. Also, ISU is shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc this season, after shooting 37.2 percent last year. In 16 games this season, the Redbirds have already made double-digit three-pointers in seven games, two better than the entire season last year.
NOT FINE IN 2009
Another recent difference for Illinois State is the shooting of guards Emmanuel Holloway and Lloyd Phillips. Since the turn of the calendar year, Phillips is shooting 39.3 percent from the field, after shooting 48.1 percent in 2008. Holloway has yet to make a three-pointer in 2009 and is shooting 0-for-6 on threes.
With 14 made three-pointers against Evansville, Dec. 31, ISU dropped in 14 treys in a single game for the third time this season. Heading into this season, Illinois State had only made 14 or more three-pointers in three games in the history of the program since the three-point line was instituted for the 1986-87 season.
LET THE RECORD SHOW
Illinois State began the season with a 14-0 record, the best start in school history. The previous mark was set in 1977-78, when the Redbirds won their first 12 games to open the campaign. Prior to ISU's first loss, the Redbirds were one of only four teams in all of NCAA Division I basketball to be unbeaten.
AN ALL-AROUND GAME
This season Osiris Eldridge eclipsed a trio of milestones with 1,000 career points, 400 career rebounds and 100 career steals. In doing so, Eldridge became the seventh Redbird all-time to accomplish the feat, joining Tony Holifield, Rickie Johnson, Rick Lamb, Dan Muller, Mike VandeGarde and LeRoy Watkins.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Despite starting a four-guard lineup in 15 of the first 16 games, Illinois State has won the rebounding battle in 12 games this season and tied in one. On the year, the Redbirds own a +4.3 rebounding margin.
282-STRAIGHT GAMES WITH A TREY
After sinking six three-pointers at Indiana State, Illinois State enters tonight's game against Drake with at least one made three in 282-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton Dec. 12, 1999.
CREATING THE SECOND CHANCE
Junior Dinma Odiakosa is all about giving his teammates a second chance, and as a result, is leading the team with 49 offensive rebounds. Odiakosa has accumulated 140 offensive rebounds in his three seasons at Illinois State and his offensive boards have accounted for 41.1 percent of his total rebounds. This year, Odiakosa leads the Redbirds in total rebounding with 6.9 boards per game.
JOINING THE CLUB
With his 18 points at Central Michigan, Osiris Eldridge became the 39th member of ISU's 1,000-point club. Eldridge, who is the first addition to the 1,000-point club since 2005, currently has 1,095 career points.
After being named the Valley's Preseason Player of the Year, junior Osiris Eldridge appears to have an inside track to join a select group. Eldridge won the conference's freshman of the year award in 2007. If he ends his Illinois State career with the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year Award, which he finished runner-up for last season, Eldridge would become only the second player in league history to win both the freshman of the year and player of the year award, joining Southern Illinois' Ashraf Amaya.
Head coach Tim Jankovich's first season at Illinois State was a memorable one, not only for him, but for the program. With a 25-10 record, Jankovich guided the Redbirds to a school-record-tying 25 wins and he posted the most single-season wins for a first-year coach in program history. Currently he holds a 78.0 percent winning percentage (39-11) at Illinois State, which ranks third on the all-time coaching ledger in ISU's 111-year history.
In the history of the world, the sixth century was deemed as the start of the dark ages. However in Redbird basketball, players who score their 100th point of the season through the first six games has been anything but dark. ISU's Champ Oguchi scored 104 points through the first six games for the Redbirds. The last player at ISU to surpass the 100-point plateau through six games was Lorenzo Gordon in the 2004-05 season. The 2005 Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year had 107 points after six games.