The Braves are picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference according to the official preseason poll, and junior guard Walt Lemon, Jr., was named to the 2013-14 Preseason All-MVC Team.
WHERE TO WATCH: ILLINOIS STATE AT BRADLEY
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LAST MEETING: CARMICHAEL, BROWN LEAD ISU PAST BRADLEY, 79-59
NORMAL, Ill. (Feb. 13, 2013) - Jackie Carmichael and Tyler Brown scored in double-figures, as the Illinois State men's basketball team (16-10, 7-7 MVC at the time), sporting its throwback uniforms, defeated the Bradley Braves (14-12, 6-8 MVC at the time), 79-59, for its fourth-straight Valley win, on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Carmichael netted 27 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, while Brown scored 22 and grabbed eight off the glass. The Redbirds were one of the hottest teams in the Missouri Valley Conference at the time, winning seven of their last eight conference games.
THE I-74 RIVALRY RESUMES
Eight Redbird newcomers will have a chance to experience their first-ever I-74 Rivalry game when Illinois State travels to Bradley Wednesday night. Only two current Redbirds - Kaza Keane and Nick Zeisloft - have played significant time against the Braves, with the home team winning in each of the two games last season. ISU has earned victories in eight-of-the-last-nine Illinois State versus Bradley matchups.
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, starting with Wednesday's I-74 Rivalry matchup at Bradley.
BLOCKING OFF A SPOT IN THE RECORD BOOK
After blocking two shots in Illinois State's game at Indiana State Saturday evening, freshman center Reggie Lynch increased his season total to 49 blocks, which is just three away from tying ISU's freshman blocks record of 52, set by Jon Ekey in 2010-11. Lynch is currently tied for sixth place on the single-season blocks list and is already No. 19 on the career-blocks list. The Edina, Minn., native currently leads the league and ranks 44th nationally in blocks per game (2.5).
HUNTER AT HOME IN THE VALLEY
Illinois State redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter has significantly increased his productivity in the Redbirds' eight Missouri Valley Conference games this season. Hunter leads ISU in Valley-play with 11.6 points (team-high) on 51.6 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists (team-high) and 1.6 steals (team-high) per game. During the non-conference season, Hunter averaged 9.5 points on 48.4 percent shooting, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals.
ISU's zone defense has continued to effectively challenge the opposition since the Redbirds began utilizing the zone in their fifth game of the season. Illinois State currently ranks No. 2 in field goal percentage defense (42.4 percent) among Missouri Valley Conference teams. With ISU's four-guard lineup, the Redbirds lead the Valley in steals (7.3) per game, and with freshman center and league-leading shot blocker Reggie Lynch in the middle of the starting zone, ISU ranks second in league-blocks (4.4).
HOLDING TEAMS UNDER 70
Illinois State is 8-1 when holding the opposition to 69 points or less this season. The Redbirds are also 4-1 when scoring between 60-69 points. Illinois State has reached 70 points in just two of its last six wins; however, the Redbirds have held their opposition to 64 points or less during five of the last six victories. Based on these results, ISU has a good chance of winning when finishing games in the 60-point range.
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 69.6 points (+1.2) per game while shooting 40.8 percent (+2.5) and holding opponents to 41.2 percent (-4.5) through their last 14 games (10-5).
FOR COMPARISON'S SAKE
Despite Illinois State featuring 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 more-experienced Redbird team was at this point in league-play. Last year's ISU team was 11-9 and 2-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference, while the 2013-14 Redbirds are currently 11-9 and 4-4 in the Valley.
HOT SHOOTING DOWNS 'BIRDS
In Illinois State's game at second-place Indiana State Saturday, the Redbirds came back from a nine-point first-half deficit to briefly take a one-point lead with 4:15 left in the first half; however, the Sycamores then outscored the Redbirds, 16-4, to take an 11-point halftime advantage en route to a 76-62 win. Indiana State shot 7-for-11 (63.6 percent) from beyond the arc in the first half and 52.4 percent for the game. As a result, perimeter defense will likely be a point of emphasis as Illinois State prepares for Bradley Wednesday night.
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