The Sycamores were picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference according to the official preseason poll, and senior guard Jake Odum was named to the 2013-14 Preseason All-MVC Team while senior forward Manny Arop was an honorable mention selection.
WHERE TO WATCH: ILLINOIS STATE VS. INDIANA STATE
RedbirdHD.tv (Live Stream): http://www.goredbirds.com/allaccess/?media=412475
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS FALL TO INDIANA STATE, 76-62
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (Jan. 25, 2014) - Illinois State 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, Indiana State then outscored the Redbirds, 16-4, to take an 11-point halftime advantage en route to a 76-62 win over Illinois State at the Hulman Center. Bobby Hunter led three Redbirds (11-9, 4-4 Missouri Valley Conference at the time) in double figures with 13 points, while freshmen Paris Lee and Reggie Lynch both chipped in 11 points. Lynch also led ISU's rebounding-effort with seven boards plus two blocks and one steal. Indiana State's Manny Arop and Dawon Cummings both netted 14 points to lead the Sycamores (16-4, 7-1 MVC at the time).
With just two regular-season games remaining, Illinois State enters Wednesday night's contest versus Indiana State a half-game out of third place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with an 8-8 league record (the complete standings are listed on pg. 19). Missouri State is 9-8 after winning Tuesday, and Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois are each 8-8. The Redbirds can still finish anywhere from No. 3 to No. 6.
NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE COMES INTO PLAY
The 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament is eight days away (as of Wednesday). Records in head-to-head competition are compared (in both two-way and multiple-team ties) with the higher seed going to the team that has won the most games against the other(s). If head-to-head competition does not break the tie, the deadlock will be broken by non-conference schedule strength as calculated by The RPI Report on the day before the final day of conference games. ISU's success during its challenging non-conference schedule could play a role in the Redbirds' Valley Tournament seed. ISU's success during its challenging non-conference schedule could play a role in the Redbirds' Valley Tournament seed. Illinois State is currently No. 4 in the league with a 158 NCSS.
DEFENDING DOUG COLLINS COURT
Illinois State enters Wednesday night's home game against Indiana State with a 7-1 Missouri Valley Conference record on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena and an 11-3 overall mark. An ISU win Wednesday would secure ISU's best home-Valley record since the Redbirds also went 8-1 at home during the 2009-10 MVC season. ISU has won 11 out of its last 12 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. With ISU has secured its eighth-consecutive season with at least 10 victories at Redbird Arena.
THE GAME MUST GO ON
Redbird fans will likely notice that a few floor panels in and around the Reggie Redbird logo on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena have been switched out for solid red panels. Due to the vast amount of snow over the winter and subsequent snow melt throughout last week, a drain on top of the Redbird Arena roof became overwhelmed with a substantial amount of water that made its way onto the basketball floor below, with most of it falling directly at center court. Consequently, other portions of the floor are being used to replace those that were deemed unplayable. The result is a disruption in the aesthetics of the logo at center court, however, as safety is ISU's first priority, the playing areas of the court still meet the NCAA Division I standards, and it is extremely safe for competition.
When Illinois State plays its regular-season home-finale Wednesday against Indiana State, the Redbirds will not bid farewell to a single senior player, marking the first time since 2011-12 that Illinois State has not featured a senior on its roster. ISU and Evansville are the only two Missouri Valley Conference programs without seniors on their current rosters. Instead of recognizing senior players, Illinois State will honor its two senior managers, Nate Hayner and Mike Winkler before Wednesday night's game. Both recreation and park administration majors, Hayner (Pontiac, Ill.) has served as a manager since 2010-11, and Winkler (Toluca, Ill.) has worked with the team since 2012-13.
EXPERIENCE FOR THE INEXPERIENCED
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) has already matched the Missouri Valley Conference win-total (eight) achieved by last year's much more experienced team, which finished 8-10. Last year's ISU team was 8-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference (16-13 overall) at this point last season, while the 2013-14 Redbirds are currently 8-8 and 15-13.
Three Illinois State players have earned career-scoring highs in three out of the last four games. Zach Lofton most-recently netted a career-best 24 points on a career-high eight field goals in ISU's loss at Northern Iowa Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Daishon Knight scored a career-best 26 points on a career-high five three-pointers in ISU's win over Bradley (Feb. 15), and Nick Zeisloft tallied a career-best 18 points in the Redbirds' loss at Evansville (Feb. 12).
Even though Illinois State center Reggie Lynch is a freshman, he is already building a legacy in the Redbird and Missouri Valley Conference record books. Lynch is now in sole-possession of second place on the ISU single-season blocks list and ranks No. 11 on the career-blocks list, with 70 stuffs. Jeff Wilkins holds the single-season record with 103 in 1976-77. Lynch already set the record for most freshman blocks, when he surpassed the previous-high of 52 earlier this year, and he is currently pursuing the MVC freshman blocks record of 92, set by Creighton's Benoit Benjamin in 1982-83. Behind Benjamin are Bradley's Patrick O'Bryant (75, 2004-05), Danny Granger (70, 2001-02), and now, Lynch (70, 2013-14).
For a program-record fourth time, junior guard Daishon Knight was the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week (Feb. 17). The Redbirds have now earned a league-best five Valley Newcomer of the Week honors this season. Knight - who is the first-ever Redbird to earn MVC Newcomer of the Week four times - passed Boo Richardson's former record of three honors during the 2006-07 season. Knight and Loyola freshman Milton Doyle both lead the league with four Valley Newcomer of the Week honors in 2013-14. Additionally, ISU's five honors this season are the most since earning seven in 2006-07.
UNDER 70 SUCCESS
The Redbirds - who rank second in league-field goal percentage defense (42.9 percent) - have statistically proven that holding teams under 70 points is a recipe for success. With a 67-63 win over Missouri State (Feb. 18), Illinois State improved to 12-2 when holding its opponents to 69 points or less this season. Conversely, ISU is 3-11 when its opponents net 70 or more points.
ISU's primary 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. 3 in field goal percentage defense (43.1 percent) among Missouri Valley Conference teams. With ISU's four-guard lineup - including redshirt junior Bobby Hunter and freshman guard Paris Lee who both rank in the top-10 among Valley players with averages of 1.7 and 1.5, respectively - the Redbirds lead the Valley in steals (7.8) per game. With freshman center and league-leading shot blocker Reggie Lynch in the middle of the zone, ISU ranks second in league-blocks (4.5), and ISU is No. 2 in defensive rebounds, with 24.9 per game.
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