The Flyers are picked to finish seventh in the official 2013-14 preseason Atlantic 10 poll.
WHERE TO WATCH: ISU VS. No. 25 DAYTON
Comcast SportsNet Chicago: Comcast: 56/522/922, DirecTV: 665, Dish: 429, AT&T U-Verse: 741/1741
ESPN Full Court: Comcast: 837, DirecTV: 720, Dish: 459/465, AT&T U-Verse: 4505
LAST MEETING: REDBIRDS OUTLAST DAYTON, 74-73
DAYTON, Ohio (Dec. 19, 2012) - Dayton missed two potential game-winning shots with less than three seconds to play, and Illinois State held on to edge the Flyers, 74-73, at UD Arena. The Redbirds (8-3 at the time) earned their fourth-straight win and second road victory of the season, while the Flyers (8-3 at the time) suffered just their second home loss of the year, in front of 11,897. Jackie Carmichael led all scorers with 25 points and 12 rebounds, his third double-double of the season and 24th of his career. Dayton's Kevin Dillard and Dyshawn Pierre each scored a team-high 14 points.
Final exams begin this Monday for Illinois State's students; however, the Redbird men's basketball team has already experienced several challenging tests on the court, and Saturday's game is no exception. For the first time since 1987-88, the Redbirds are facing two non-conference Top 25 opponents in the same season. So far this year, ISU played at No. 14 VCU (L, 96-58) and Illinois State hosts No. 25 Dayton Saturday. Also, four out of ISU's first five opponents this season were favored to win their respective conferences, helping the Redbirds prepare for their always-challenging Missouri Valley Conference slate.
AGAINST THE TOP 25
Saturday's game against No. 25 Dayton marks just the third Top 25 non-conference foe to play at Redbird Arena. The previous two included No. 23 UNLV on Dec. 1, 2010 (L, 82-51) and No. 23 Purdue on Dec. 7, 1999 (L, 86-75). The Redbirds are 0-8 against Top 25 teams at Redbird Arena and 3-15 versus Top 25 opponents in Normal, Ill., with the Redbirds' last home victory over a Top 25 foe occurring in a 91-81 win over No. 9 Tulsa, on Mar. 3, 1984, at Horton Field House. ISU is 9-50 all-time versus ranked opponents, with the Redbirds winning their last game versus a Top 25 team, beating No. 16 Creighton in Omaha, Neb., 75-72, last season, on Feb. 9, 2013.
IN THE ZONE
Illinois State enters Saturday's game on a three-game winning streak, thanks in part to consistently solid defensive efforts. The Redbirds, who effectively executed a zone defense during their recent success, have increased their steals while forcing more opponent turnovers and decreasing opponent field goal percentage. During ISU's last three wins, the Redbirds have averaged 8.3 steals (compared to 5.2 in the first five games), and their opponents have averaged 14.0 turnovers (compared to 12.6 in the first five games). ISU has also held its last three opponents to 39.3 percent shooting from the field compared to 45.7 percent shooting throughout the first five games of the season (a difference of 6.4 percent).
RAISING THE MARK
In addition to improved defense, the Redbirds have also increased their offensive productivity over the last three games, resulting in a winning-streak. Whereas ISU averaged 68.4 points per game on 38.3 percent field goal shooting during the first five games, the Redbirds have averaged 80.0 points on 46.4 percent shooting over their last three contests. ISU shot a season-best 62.5 percent in the second half of Wednesday's 19-point victory over Chicago State.
LEANING ON LYNCH
Part of Illinois State's recent success can be attributed to the play of freshman center Reggie Lynch. The Edina, Minn., native has averaged 8.7 points on 75.0 percent shooting, plus 2.7 blocks and 4.7 rebounds during ISU's three-game winning streak. Lynch currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in blocks per game (2.1), and he ranks second in field goal percentage (65.0 percent). Lynch scored a career-high 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the Redbirds' win over Chicago State Wednesday night.
Junior guard Daishon Knight is the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the week, as announced by the league office Monday. The Redbirds have earned a newcomer of the week honor in two out of the first four weeks this season. Knight averaged 15.0 points per game on 16-for-31 (51.6 percent) shooting from the field plus 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game to lead Illinois State to a 2-1 finish, tying the Redbirds for first place, at the USF Golden Gate Challenge (Nov. 27-30). Knight also shot 7-for-8 (87.5 percent) at the free throw line. He now leads the team with 13.8 points per game. For the record, ISU earned a program-record seven Valley Newcomer of the Week honors during the 2007 season.
ISU sophomore guard Zach Lofton has reached double-figures in seven out of eight games this year. Lofton currently ranks second in scoring (13.3 points per game) with a career-high of 19 points twice.
A COMPETITOR AND A SCHOLAR
For the first time in his career, redshirt sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft was named the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Week (Dec. 4), marking the first such honor for an ISU male student-athlete in 2013-14. Now in its 15th year of existence, The Valley's Scholar-Athlete program honors its student-athletes for their athletic performance for a one-week period and academic success in the classroom. Throughout his entire academic career at Illinois State, Zeisloft has excelled in the classroom, earning a 3.74 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in finance. The LaGrange, Ill., native has already surpassed his single-game scoring and rebounding career-highs with a 14-point effort at San Francisco (Nov. 30) and three seven-rebound performances this season.
ZEISLOFT NOMINATED FOR GOOD WORKS TEAM
Redshirt sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft is one of 75 NCAA Division I men's basketball student-athletes nominated for the 2014 Allstate NABC Good Works Team, as announced by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Tuesday morning. One of Illinois State's two captains, Zeisloft leads by example. Along with his classroom success, Zeisloft has also contributed in the community. Throughout his young career, Zeisloft has earned 20 hours of community service, including 10 already this season. The award recipients will be unveiled in February.
Illinois State is riding its first winning streak of the season after the Redbirds finished 2-1, to tie for first place, at the round-robin University of San Francisco Golden Gate Challenge (Nov. 27-30). ISU outscored its opponents in five out of six halves played in San Francisco for a +6.7 scoring margin throughout the three games. ISU also amassed more assists (+8), steals (+13) and blocks (+2) than its opponents.
For the first time since 2008, six Redbirds reached double-figures in a single game, as Illinois State beat San Francisco (Nov. 30). Balanced scoring has occurred throughout the entire season, as at least four Redbirds have reached double-figures in five out of Illinois State's first eight games.
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 the Redbird bench has outscored its opponent's bench in seven out of the first eight games this season, for a total of 246-148 (+98).
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