The last meeting between Illinois State and Western Michigan occurred as a BracketBusters matchup on Feb. 19, 2011, at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich., with Western Michigan winning, 68-65. Jon Ekey scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds for the Redbirds.
LOSING THE LEAD
Illinois State will try to bounce back against Western Michigan after losing to Wyoming, 81-67, Tuesday night. The Redbirds let a 19-point lead become a 14-point deficit, representing a 33-point swing. ISU also let a double-digit advantage disintegrate at No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 1. The Redbirds led by 13 against the Cardinals, but ultimately lost, 69-66. ISU has led at halftime in all three of its losses this season.
A PERFECT STRETCH
With ISU and Wyoming tied, 21-21, in the first half of Tuesday night's game, the Redbirds went on a 20-3 run to take a 41-24 lead with 3:49 remaining. During the scoring streak, ISU connected on seven-consecutive field goals without a miss, including six-straight three pointers. Tyler Brown netted three treys, Jon Ekey added two and Nick Zeisloft scored one during the run.
Illinois State senior guard Tyler Brown ranks second in the Missouri Valley Conference with 20.0 points averaged per game, and he ranks first in the league with 3.0 three-pointers averaged per contest. Brown has scored double figures in seven out of eight games this season, with five 20-plus point performances. Over the last three games, he is averaging 27.7 points per contest. Brown scored a game-high 25 points in the loss at No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 1. He has been impressive in games vs. top-25 teams in his career, averaging 17.2 points in six total games.
Illinois State continues to rank among some of the top teams in the nation statistically. According to the NCAA rankings released Monday, Dec. 3, the Redbirds were 17th in points per game (82.3), 22nd in scoring margin (+15.4), 10th in field goal percentage (50.7) and 16th in assists per game (17.6). Additionally, ISU guard Tyler Brown ranked 35th with 19.7 points per game, forward Jackie Carmichael ranked 32nd with a 59.0 percent field goal shooting percentage and point guard Kaza Keane ranked 32nd with 5.8 assists.
At least three Redbirds have netted double-figures in six of ISU's eight games this season. Four reached double-figures in the opener versus UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 12), five scored double-figures at Drexel, (Nov. 15), three tallied double-figures against Delaware State, (Nov. 18), four reached double-figures versus Fairleigh Dickinson, (Nov. 20), three scored double-figures against UAB, (Nov. 23) and three netted double-figures against Wyoming (Dec. 4). The Redbirds are 5-1 when three or more players score in double-figures, and 0-2 when less than three net double-figures.
THEY SAY IT'S BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
In the spirit of the holiday season, Illinois State is spreading the scoring cheer with a 139-to-126 (1.1) assist to turnover ratio through the first eight games. ISU has teamed up for two 20-plus assists games this year, and freshman Kaza Keane amassed a Redbird season-high nine assists against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 20, and again versus Northwestern on Nov. 24.
Illinois State came within three points of beating FBS programs twice this season. The Redbirds lost, 72-69, in overtime to Northwestern on Nov. 24, followed by a 69-66 loss at No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 1. In both of ISU's losses, the Redbirds led at halftime (26-23 versus Northwestern and 33-25 versus Louisville). Illinois State also outshot both opponents (42.1 percent versus Northwestern's 33.9 percent, and 52.1 percent versus Louisville's 45.5 percent).
After freshman starting point guard Kaza Keane sprained his right ankle in practice Nov. 29, he did not play during Illinois State's game at No. 5 Louisville. Fortunately for the Redbirds, Johnny Hill and Anthony Cousin teamed up to fill Kean's void. Hill, who made his first-career start in place of Keane, dished out a game-best and career-high six assists, scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds and collected one steal in 27 minutes of play. Cousin ran the point for 12 minutes with two assists and two rebounds. Keane returned to the starting lineup on Dec. 4 against Wyoming.
THE B&C SCORING CO.
Illinois State senior guard Tyler Brown and senior forward Jackie Carmichael are scoring points like it is their job this season. Brown and Carmichael have both netted 20 or more points in the same game on three occasions this season, including against No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 1 (Brown: 25 points, Carmichael: 20 points). They have also both netted double-figure efforts in two additional games, meaning that Brown and Carmichael have both tallied 10 or more points in the same five-out-of-eight games this season.
While Illinois State's offense is averaging a blistering 80.4 points per game this season, the Redbird defense is simultaneously limiting the competition. Opponents are averaging 68.6 points per game, a +11.8 scoring margin. Illinois State has only allowed one opponent (Wyoming on Dec. 4) to shoot better than 50 percent from the field, and ISU has only been outshot by the opposition once (by Wyoming on Dec. 4) this season. The Redbirds have also forced 139 turnovers compared to 126 turnovers of their own, a +1.6 margin. In the win over UAB on Nov. 23, ISU forced the Blazers to commit 27 turnovers, which marked the first time that an opponent has been charged with 25 or more turnovers since Missouri-St. Louis had 34 on Nov. 7, 2007.
BACK-TO-BACK 30-POINT GAMES
Senior guard Tyler Brown and junior guard Bryant Allen each scored 30 or more points in back-to-back games at the South Padre Island Invitational in South Padre Island, Texas. Allen netted a career-high 30 points, on 9-for-15 shooting (60.0 percent), in Illinois State's win over UAB on Nov. 23. In doing so, he became the first Redbird since 2010 to score 30 points in a game. While it previously took two years between 30-point games, Brown accomplished the feat 24 hours after Allen, against Northwestern on Nov. 24. He netted a career-high 36 points on 12-for-20 shooting (60.0 percent), which was the fourth-highest scoring output in the nation this season, and the most points scored by a Redbird since Tarise Bryson tallied 41 against Central Michigan on Dec. 3, 2000.