The Panthers are picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference, according to the preseason poll. Junior Seth Tuttle was also named to the Valley preseason team.
WHERE TO WATCH: ILLINOIS STATE VS. NORTHERN IOWA
RedbirdHD.tv (Live Stream): http://www.goredbirds.com/allaccess/?media=412472
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS TOP PANTHERS IN QUARTERFINAL
ST. LOUIS (March 8, 2013) - Tyler Brown netted a game-high 28 points, tying an Illinois State, Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-record six three-pointers, and the No. 6 Redbirds (18-14 at the time) topped No. 3-seed Northern Iowa, 73-65, at the Scottrade Center. Jackie Carmichael contributed 15 points, with a game-best 10 rebounds, for his 15th double-double of the season, and the 35th of his career. He also blocked five shots, which tied ISU's Valley Tournament single-game record. Three of his blocks came in the final two minutes. Northern Iowa also featured four players in double-figures, with a 16-point effort by Marc Sonnen to lead the way.
Illinois State has defended Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena this season, earning an 8-3 home-court record in 2013-14, including a 4-1 mark against Missouri Valley Conference foes. Throughout the entire league, MVC teams are 36-14 at home games in conference play this season. Following Saturday's win over Drake, ISU has won eight-out-of-its-last-nine games at home, including an 81-75 victory over No. 25 Dayton (Dec. 7) for the Redbirds' first victory over a Top-25 opponent in arena history. Redbird head coach Dan Muller is now 19-8 in two seasons at Redbird Arena.
REDBIRDS HEAT UP
After shooting a combined 56-for-166 (33.7 percent) from the field and 9-for-66 (13.6 percent) from beyond the arc during a three-game stretch from Jan. 22 until Jan. 29, Illinois State bounced back with its best offensive-performance of the season in Saturday's win over Drake. The Redbirds earned season-highs in field goal and three-point shooting, at 51.1 percent (24-for-47) and 52.2 percent (12-for-23), respectively. ISU's 12 three-pointers were two more than the Redbirds had made in their last three games combined.
Illinois State achieved its top offensive-effort of the season in Saturday afternoon's win over Drake thanks in-part to career-nights by redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter and redshirt sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft. Hunter led all scorers with a career-best 19 points (4-for-6 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 8-for-9 from the free throw line), while Zeisloft contributed a career-best 15 points - all from beyond the arc - on a career-high 5-for-7 three-point shooting.
LYNCH EARNS RECORD
Freshman center Reggie Lynch now holds the single-season blocks record for a freshman (53), after recording two blocks in the win over Drake Saturday afternoon. The previous mark was 52. Lynch is now in fourth place on the single-season blocks list and is already No. 17 on the career-blocks list - four behind current Redbird head coach Dan Muller, who totaled 57. Lynch leads the league and ranks 42nd nationally in blocks per game (2.4).
HUNTER AT HOME IN THE VALLEY
Illinois State redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter has significantly increased his productivity in the Redbirds' 10 Missouri Valley Conference games this season. Hunter leads ISU in Valley-play with 11.6 points (team-high) on 50.7 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 3.0 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.
Illinois State often starts two true-freshmen in guard Paris Lee and center Reggie Lynch. Lee leads all MVC freshmen and ranks ninth in the Valley with 1.5 steals per game, while Lynch tops the league in blocks (2.4) and ranks second in field goal percentage (59.8). Lynch also ranks No. 4 in MVC-scoring among freshmen with 7.5 points per game. Fellow-freshman Tony Wills has come off of the bench to score in seven-straight contests. Needless to say, the future of Redbird basketball is bright.
ISU's zone defense has continued to effectively challenge the opposition since the Redbirds began utilizing it in their fifth game of the season. Illinois State currently ranks No. 2 in field goal percentage defense (42.1 percent) among Missouri Valley Conference teams. With ISU's four-guard lineup - including redshirt junior Bobby Hunter and freshman guard Paris Lee who rank seventh and ninth in the league, respectively, with 1.5 steals per game - the Redbirds lead the Valley in steals (7.4) per game. With freshman center and league-leading shot blocker Reggie Lynch in the middle of the zone, ISU ranks second in league-blocks (4.4), and ISU is No. 2 in defensive rebounds, with 25.9 per game.
HOLDING TEAMS UNDER 70
Illinois State is 9-2 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 three of its last seven wins; however, the Redbirds have held their opposition to 64 points or less during six of the last seven victories. Based on these results, ISU has a good chance of winning when finishing games in the 60-point range.
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 3-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference (12-10 overall), while the 2013-14 Redbirds are currently 5-5 and 12-10.
REDBIRDS TO PARTICIPATE IN 2014 PARADISE JAM
Even though the Redbirds still have eight regular-season home games remaining, news pertaining to the 2014-15 season was announced Feb. 3. Illinois State will join Clemson, Gardner-Webb, LSU, Nevada, Old Dominion, Seton Hall and Weber State in the 2014 Ezybonds Global Payments U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, held on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nov. 21-24, 2014.
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