The Shockers are picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference according to the official preseason poll, and senior forward Cleanthony Early is the Valley Preseason Player of the Year..
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU AT WICHITA STATE
ESPN3 - http://es.pn/MBK-WICHITAvsILST
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS FALL TO No. 6 WICHITA STATE, 66-47
WICHITA, Kan. (Jan. 8, 2014) - Bobby Hunter led Illinois State with 11 points and Zach Lofton grabbed a career-high seven rebounds, but No. 6 Wichita State never trailed en route to a 66-47 win over the Redbirds in front of a sellout crowd of 10,506 at Charles Koch Arena. Hunter was the lone Redbird to reach double-figures, while Nick Zeisloft contributed nine points on 3-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker both led Wichita State offensively with 11 points.
History will be made Wednesday night when Illinois State hosts No. 4 Wichita State, as the Shockers represent the highest-ranked team to ever play in 25-year-old Redbird Arena. Previously, the highest-ranked team to visit Redbird Arena was No. 15 Drake in 2008. Earlier this season, ISU earned its first-ever win over a Top-25 team in the arena by beating No. 25 Dayton, 81-75, on Jan. 7, 2013.
VERSUS THE TOP-5
No. 4 Wichita State is the highest-ranked opponent that the Redbirds have faced since playing at No. 2 Kansas in 2000. The Redbirds played at No. 5 Louisville last season. The last time that ISU hosted a top-five team was Nov. 30, 1987, when the Redbirds welcomed No. 2 Purdue to Horton Field House where the Boilermakers narrowly won, 68-61. The last top-5 team that the Redbirds defeated was No. 4 Indiana State, 81-76, on Jan. 21, 1978. ISU is 2-14 against opponents ranked No. 5 or higher.
With ISU's win at Drake Saturday night, the Redbirds improved to 4-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is the Redbirds' best start to league-play since Osiris Eldridge and company also began 4-2 in 2009-10. Not only has Illinois State won 10-out-of-its-last-13 games, but the Redbirds have also earned seven-consecutive wins at home, marking ISU's longest home-court win streak since 2011-12.
LYNCH CLOSES IN ON RECORD
After matching a career-high with four blocks in Illinois State's win at Drake Saturday night, freshman center Reggie Lynch increased his season total to 45 blocks, which is just seven away from ISU's freshman blocks record of 52, set by Jon Ekey in 2010-11. Lynch currently ranks No. 12 on the single-season blocks list and No. 22 on the career-blocks list.
BEATING THE BULLDOGS
Illinois State put together one of its most-complete offensive and defensive efforts of the season in Saturday night's win over Drake. The Redbirds shot 48.1 percent from the field - ISU's third-highest mark of the season - while holding the Bulldogs to 34.8 percent from the field - ISU's fifth-best defensive effort. ISU also out-rebounded Drake, 38-23, while collecting more assists (14-10), blocks (5-0) and steals (10-8).
KNIGHT'S CLUTCH WEEK
Junior guard Daishon Knight led Illinois State with 16.5 points per game on 57.1-percent (12-for-21) shooting in the Redbirds' two Missouri Valley Conference victories over Evansville and at Drake last week. Knight's clutch three-pointer against Evansville with eight seconds remaining in regulation forced overtime, and the Redbirds held off the Purple Aces thanks to four more overtime-points from Knight, who finished with 16. Against Drake, Knight led Illinois State with 17 points as the Redbirds won decisively on the road. Along with leading the team in scoring, Knight also averaged 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals.
Illinois State and Evansville required overtime to settle an offensive-showdown Jan. 15 on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Despite the Purple Aces netting 15 three-pointers - more than any opponent in ISU history - the Redbirds answered with one of their top offensive efforts of the season, as ISU matched a season-high first-half shooting-percentage of 58.1 percent. The Redbirds also outrebounded Evansville (37-35) and recorded more blocks (6-2) and steals (8-3) while committing fewer turnovers (8-11). ISU is now 1-1 in overtime games this season.
LOFTON REGISTERS CAREER-HIGH
Redbird sophomore guard Zach Lofton scored a career-high 21 points in a career-best 39 minutes during Illinois State's win over Evansville Jan. 15. Lofton - who started the season by netting double-figures in the first seven games - seems to have bounced back offensively after being held to one double-digit effort in the four games prior to Evansville. Redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter also enjoyed a productive game against Evansville, scoring a career-best five field goals.
FOR COMPARISON'S SAKE
Despite Illinois State featuring what is believed to be the least-experienced team in the nation, this year's Redbird squad (which features eight newcomers to NCAA Division I basketball on the current active roster) is ahead of where last year's much more experienced Redbird team was at this point in last season's conference standings, despite last year's squad consisting of four seniors and just two scholarship-newcomers. Last year's ISU team was 9-9 and 0-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference after its first 18 games, while the 2013-14 Redbirds are currently 11-7 and 4-2 in the Valley.
MAKING A STATE-MENT
After earning a win over Loyola Jan. 11, Illinois State improved to a perfect 5-0 against NCAA Division I teams in the state of Illinois this season. ISU's 5-0 in-state mark is the best among Illinois' 13 D-I teams, with Northern Illinois and Western Illinois maintaining the only other undefeated records of 1-0. The Redbirds have four more chances to earn in-state victories during the regular-season.
ZEISLOFT AGAIN NAMED SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Redshirts sophomore Nick Zeisloft was selected as the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Week for the third time this season (Jan. 15). Zeisloft maintains a 3.71 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in Finance and is a four-time AFNI Honor Roll Member.
Along with freshman guard Reggie Lynch's Valley-best 2.5 blocks per game (which ranks No. 40 nationally), he also leads the league in field goal percentage at 60.4 (58-for-96). Meanwhile, teammate Zach Lofton ranks No. 5 in MVC free throw shooting with an 84.9 percent average (62-for-73). As a team, Illinois State ranks second in Valley three-pointers - and 47th in the nation - (7.9 per game) and second in league blocks (4.4).
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