ISU is now 67-40 (.626) in regular-season tournament games after losing to Vermont in the Redbirds' opening game at the USF Golden Gate Challenge against Vermont. ISU is also 13-16 (.448) in regular-season title games.
Illinois State is currently playing in San Francisco, Calif., for the first time in program history.
At 2,100 miles one-way from Normal, Ill., to San Francisco, this is Illinois State's longest road trip of the regular-season and also the team's furthest journey since traveling to Stanford, Calif., in 2012 for its NIT matchup.
Among ISU's three opponents at the USF Golden Gate Challenge, the Redbirds faced Vermont, and are playing Sonoma State, both for the first time in program history. The Redbirds own a 1-0 record against San Francisco.
Sonoma State competes at the NCAA Division II level, and the game will count for both teams. The last time Illinois State faced a DII team, the Redbirds beat Missouri-St. Louis, 70-37, on Nov. 11, 2007, at Redbird Arena.
Four out of Illinois State's first five opponents - including Vermont - were favored to win their respective conferences.
Throughout four out of ISU's first five games this season, at least four Redbirds have recorded double-digit scoring.
With just 2.5 years of previous NCAA Division I basketball experience divided amongst returners Kaza Keane, Nick Zeisloft and Matt Stacho, Illinois State is believed to have less returning experience than any other Division I team.
Basketball Times ranked the Redbirds' 2013 recruiting class No. 29 in the nation in its June edition. PROGRAM EXCELLENCE
Illinois State is in its 44th season as a NCAA Division I program, and during that time, the Redbirds have only had eight losing seasons.
Throughout Illinois State's program history, the Redbirds have featured 20 All-American selections, two Missouri Valley Conference Larry Bird Valley Players of the Year, Four Valley Tournament Most Outstanding Players, 66 All-Valley Selections, six NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 NIT appearances, three Valley regular-season championships and four Valley Tournament championships. ABOUT THE SONOMA STATE SEAWOLVES
Sonoma State University is located in Rohnert Park, Calif., (50 miles north of San Francisco) and has an enrollment of 8,600. The Seawolves compete at the NCAA Division II level and are members of the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
The Seawolves return three starters from a team which finished 11-16 last season and earned eighth place in the CCAA (9-13).
This is the first-ever meeting between Illinois State and Sonoma State.
Sonoma State is picked to finish seventh in the official 2013-14 preseason CCAA poll.
The Seawolves are 0-1 in the USF Golden Gate Challenge after losing to host-San Francisco, 96-73, Wednesday night at War Memorial Gymnasium. The game counted as an exhibition for Sonoma State.
Friday night's game against Illinois State will count toward Sonoma State's record and statistics.
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU VS. SONOMA STATE No TV or streaming video available.
USF GOLDEN GATE CHALLENGE OPPONENTS
Vermont (2-5) - ISU lost, 87-76, Wed., Nov. 27
2012-13 Record: 21-12 / America East Record / Finish: 11-5 (2nd) / Postseason: CBI Tournament
Sonoma State (1-2) (NCAA Division II) - ISU plays Fri., Nov. 29 at 10:15 p.m. CT
2012-13 Record: 11-16 / California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Record / Finish: 9-13 (8th)
San Francisco (4-3) - ISU plays Sat., Nov. 30 at 10:15 p.m. CT
2012-13 Record: 15-16 / West Coast Conference (WCC) Record / Finish: 7-9 (T5th)
Illinois State sophomore guard Zach Lofton has consistently led the Redbirds' offensive attack in his first season with the team. Lofton is the only Redbird who has netted double-figures in all five games this year, and he amassed a team-high and career-best 19 points on 7-for-15 (46.7 percent) shooting during Illinois State's loss to Vermont Wednesday night. He currently leads ISU in scoring and ranks 13th in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 13.4 points per game average.
OFFENSE ON TRACK
In a city where cable car tracks line various downtown streets, the Redbird men's basketball team seems to have navigated onto its own offensive track in San Francisco. After ISU combined to shoot 35.6 percent through its first four games, the Redbirds exploded with a season-best 50.0 percent (28-for-56) effort from the field during their loss to Vermont Wednesday night. Illinois State's 55.2 percent first-half performance against the Catamounts was also a season-best.
Not only do Illinois State's opponents have to prepare for the Redbirds' starting five, but they also must scout ISU's bench. That is because Illinois State's bench has outscored its opponent's bench in four out of the first five games this season, for a total of 149-109. This is partially due to four different starting lineups, with only one repeat (Bobby Hunter, John Jones, Paris Lee, Zach Lofton, Michael Middlebrooks).
Despite leading by as many as 18 points with three minutes to play in the first half of Wednesday's game against Vermont, the Redbirds' double-digit lead became a double-digit deficit in the second half, with the Catamounts leading by as many as 12 before winning by 11. ISU also saw a double-digit advantage erode from as many as 19 to as little as two at Northwestern (Nov. 17); however, ISU was able to hold off a comeback attempt to secure the road win. ISU has had a lead in four out of its first five games this year.
At least four Redbirds have reached double-figures in four out of Illinois State's first five games this season, with five players amassing double-figures in a game for the first time since November of 2012 during Illinois State's loss to Drexel (Nov. 12, 2013). So far this season, eight of ISU's players on the active roster have amassed double-figures, with Zach Lofton netting 10 or more points in all five games.
A TRIO OF FIRSTS
For the first time in program history, the Illinois State men's basketball team is playing in San Francisco, Calif., at the University of San Francisco Golden Gate Challenge. ISU is also facing two teams at the challenge - Vermont and Sonoma State - for the first time ever. The only squad that the Redbirds had experience against prior to the tournament was San Francisco, with ISU holding a 1-0 all-time record versus the Dons. Illinois State beat USF, 68-52, at the Cowboy Shootout in Casper, Wyo., Dec. 27, 1985.
FACING TOP TEAMS
Four out of Illinois State's first five opponents this season were predicted to win their respective conference titles based on each of their official preseason league polls. That trend continued Wednesday, as the Redbirds began play at the San Francisco Golden Gate Challenge against Vermont, the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference. Despite gaining an 18-point first half lead, ISU fell, 87-76.
GOOD KNIGHT AT THE FOUL LINE
ISU junior guard Daishon Knight led four Redbirds in double-figures with 21 points in ISU's loss to Manhattan (Nov. 20). The Baltimore, Md., native scored more than half of his points from the free throw line where he was 11-for-14. He amassed more free throws than any Redbird since Tyler Brown netted 12 against Evansville last season (Jan. 26, 2013). Meanwhile, Manhattan made 34 total free throws, marking the first time since 2005 that an opponent hit more than 30 charity shots against the Redbirds.
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