The Bulldogs are being outrebounded by 11.4 boards in Valley play
TONY TONY TONY
In just his second season at Illinois State after transferring from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College, senior Tony Lewis collected his 300th career rebound Saturday night against Evansville. Lewis currently ranks No. 29 in Redbird history with 5.9 rebounds per game over his career, while ranking No. 6 at Illinois State with two offensive rebounds per game during his career.
Entering the Evansville game with six total points on the season, redshirt freshman Zeke Upshaw tossed in a team-high nine points posing the question where has he been hiding? After logging a combined 24 minutes over Illinois State's first 13 games, Upshaw, as a result of his effort in practice, has logged a total of 45 minutes during ISU's last five games.
SEEING THE FORREST THROUGH THE THREES
If the Redbirds are going to crack this seven-game losing skid, hot shooting will only help their chances. Evidence was witnessed against Evansville, as the Redbirds sank seven three-pointers, while shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. The seven threes were the most made by ISU in a single game since making eight at UNC-Wilmington, its last win. It was only the fourth time this season where the Redbirds made seven or more threes in a game.
ROAD TO ABERRATION
This season is anything but normal in regards to the Tim Jankovich-era at ISU. In fact, at 8-10, it is the first time Jankovich has ever been below .500 in his three-plus seasons with the Redbirds. He had not personally been under .500 as a head coach since Jan. 16, 1997, when he was coaching at North Texas.
JUST A LITTLE PATIENCE
Sitting at 0-7 in the Valley and with a roster dominated by inconsistent underclassmen, things might be feeling bleak for the Redbird faithful. However, just two short seasons ago, fellow league member Missouri State opened league play with five-straight losses and finished with a 3-15 mark while playing a number of sophomores and freshmen. Turn the clock forward, and the Bears are currently sitting on top of the MVC standings with a 7-0 mark. In addition, Wichita State, which owns a 6-1 mark, started league play 1-8 two seasons ago with a core of underclassmen.
In nine of ISU's 10 losses there has been an element of a Redbird lead in each of the games. The only time ISU has not held a lead this season was during the Nov. 21 contest at Arkansas-Little Rock. During the seven-game losing skid, the Redbirds have had at least a five-point lead in six of the seven games.
Senior Tony Lewis has taken the lead rebounding role for the Redbirds this season. He is averaging 6.8 boards per game, which ranks fifth in the Valley. He is also the league-leader in offensive caroms with 2.7 per game, which is amazing since he is only averaging 17.7 minutes played per game. If he logged 40 minutes per game, Lewis would average 15.3 boards per contest, including 6.0 offensive rebounds.
NOT GETTING ANY KICKS
The Illinois State campus has historic Route 66 running through it, but this season the Redbird offense has had a tough time reaching 66. In fact, ISU hasn't reached 66 points in a game for a total of 14 contests this season, including 13 of the last 14 games.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
The Redbirds are still winless in 2011, which is surprising considering Illinois State won 20 games during the 2010 calendar year. This is the latest ISU has gone into a new year without a win since the 2003-04 season (Jan. 18). The longest drought is January 29 during the 2002-03 season.
FREEDOM OF CHOICES
So far this season, Illinois State has had 10 different players post a double-digit scoring game. The Redbirds have had 40 double-figure performances to date on the campaign achieved by: Jackie Carmichael (10), Austin Hill (7), Blake Mishler (5), John Wilkins (5), Anthony Cousin (4), Tony Lewis (3), Trey Blue (2), Justin Clark (2), Jon Ekey (1) and Alex Rubin (1).
THE POWER OF THREES
The most obvious explanation for Illinois State's inconsistent start this season can be found with the team's shooting percentage. On the season, ISU is shooting 29.7 percent from three-point range, which would rank as the lowest single-season effort in school history, undercutting the 30.4 percentage during the 1990-91 campaign.
THAT 70's SHOW
ISU's success during the Tim Jankovich-era has been pretty much based on 70 points. When the Redbirds score 70 or more points, Illinois State owns a 44-10 record (.815) in his four seasons. When ISU opponent's score less than 70 points, the Redbirds are 70-20 (.777) during that span.
After the first two games of the season, Illinois State appeared to have a strong perimeter team with a combined 14-for-33 (.424) effort on threes. However, in the last 16 games, shooting from beyond the arch has dried up for the Redbirds. Illinois State has shot 75-for-267 (.281) and does not have a single player shooting over 40 percent during that span.
351-STRAIGHT GAMES WITH A TREY
Illinois State enters the game at Drake with at least one made three in 351-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton, Dec. 12, 1999.
Has French-born ISU sophomore John Wilkins been Illinois State's most-consistent scorer? Yes! Which is surprising considering he had to sit out the first five games of the regular-season due to an NCAA ruling. Over the last eight games, Wilkins is averaging 9.5 points per game, while shooting 48.2 percent.
FINDING THE RIGHT COMBO
Already this season, the Redbirds have had more players earn a spot in the starting lineup than the team did all of last season. The Redbirds have had nine different players start for seven different starting five combinations. Illinois State has started the same five in each of the last three games: Anthony Cousin, Austin Hill, John Wilkins, Jon Ekey and Jackie Carmichael.
Illinois State's Jon Ekey (28) and Jackie Carmichael (23) are among the top-three shot blockers in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. With two of the top-three shot blockers in the conference, it is no surprise that the Redbirds rank among the league leaders in second-place with 3.9 blocks per game. At this pace, the Redbirds would have the third-best blocks per game average in school history.
THESE 'BIRDS ARE YOUNG
As the most inexperienced team in the Valley entering the season, the Illinois State roster had combined to play a total of 3,257 minutes for the Redbirds. Opening the season, the Redbirds had combined to play 10 Division I seasons, which ranked ISU No. 23, as one of the most inexperienced teams in the nation.
With Anthony Cousin's 23-point effort at Missouri State, ISU now has five players on their roster who have scored at least 20 points in an NCAA Division I game, including four this season. Jackie Carmichael has three 20-point efforts in his career and two this season, while Cousin, Justin Clark and Jon Ekey have each posted one 20-point game this season. Trey Blue had a 20-point effort with Fordham.
CARMICHAEL FOR THE BLOCK
Sophomore Jackie Carmichael ended his first season with the Redbirds as the most-prolific freshman shot blocker in Illinois State history. Carmichael swatted away 46 shots during the 2009-10 season, crushing the old mark of 36 set by Mike VandeGarde during his freshman campaign in 1990-91. With 69 career blocks, Carmichael ranks tied for ninth in career blocked shots at ISU and he needs one more to surpass Dinma Odiakosa (69) for sole possession of ninth place.
ERR, EKEY FOR THE BLOCK?
Jackie Carmichael's ISU freshman shot block record might be short lived, as freshman Jon Ekey has collected 28 blocked shots this season. The Valley leader in blocks per game (1.5) is on pace to finish with approximately 47 blocked shots on the season, which would not only be the freshman record, but would mark the fifth-best, single-season blocked shot total in Illinois State history.
A GO-GO GOPHER
Both the Illinois State men's basketball and football programs were benefactors by the transfer of Bryant Allen from Minnesota. Allen, who is an ISU football scholarship student-athlete, will be eligible immediately for the Redbirds on the gridiron, but won't be able to play until the completion of the 2011 fall semester due to NCAA residency rules. With the Gophers, Allen, a six-foot, 170-pound guard, played in nine games during the 2009-10 season, all as a reserve. He scored seven points over 22 minutes played.
THREE GUARDS INK WITH ISU FOR 2011-12
Illinois State head basketball coach Tim Jankovich solidified the Redbird backcourt for years to come as guards Johnny Hill (Glenbard East), Nic Moore (Warsaw, Ind.) and Nick Zeisloft (Lyons Township) each signed National Letters of Intent (NLIs) to continue their education and basketball careers at Illinois State, during the early signing period on Nov. 10.