Salt Lake City is located 4,657 feet above sea level.
BAD NEWS COMES IN THREES
To avoid their third-straight loss, the Redbirds are looking for their outside shooting stroke. ISU shot 11-for-45 (.244) from beyond the arc in the last two games, which were the team's first two losses of the season.
GO WEST YOUNG MEN
When a team has (Tony) Lewis and (Justin) Clark on its roster, there should not be any hesitation to head west. And if having the namesakes of a famous exploration tandem isn't enough, head coach Tim Jankovich has done alright in guiding his Redbirds west of the Mississippi River too. When the Redbirds have traveled west of the Father of Waters in the Jankovich-era, Illinois State boasts an 8-6 (.571) record, including a 3-1 (.750) in non-conference games.
IN-SEASON MEDIA CONFERENCES
ISU Athletics Media Relations will host eight in-season media conferences during the 2009-10 season. Each conference will feature head coach Tim Jankovich and a member of the ISU basketball team. The media conferences will start at 1 p.m., and be held in the Redbird Arena Media Room. The remaining scheduled dates are: Jan. 7, Jan. 21, Jan. 29, Feb. 8, Feb. 18 and March 2.
Teleconferences with The Valley head coaches will be conducted each Tuesday throughout the season. The first teleconference is slated for Dec. 15, followed by every Tuesday from Jan. 5 to March 2. The conferences begin at 10 a.m. CT. To participate in the conference calls, call 913.981.4900. Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich will participate at 10:30 a.m.
MAKING A RUN PAST THE BORDER
Illinois State left its home state for the first time this season when the Redbirds flew to Ohio for Wednesday night's game. With the round trip to Athens, Ohio, and the flight into Salt Lake City, the former in-state Redbirds have put on 2,229 miles in the last four days.
The Redbirds haven't had to face much adversity in the Tim Jankovich-era, but when coming off a rare loss Illinois State has responded well. The Redbirds are 14-7 (.667) in the 21 previous games when coming off a loss under the guidance of Jankovich.
NOT SO FRESH
Freshmen guards Terry Johnson and Justin Clark were expected to play big roles in their first season at Illinois State. However, both have come out of the gate slow in regards to shooting. Combined the freshmen duo are 11-for-55 (.200) from the field to open the season and 3-for-31 (.097) from three-point range.
MAKING A MOLEHILL OUT OF A MOUNTAIN
Today's game only marks the eighth time Illinois State has faced a current member of the Mountain West Conference. Up to this point, the Redbirds' success has been marginal at best posting a 3-4 record. ISU has face San Diego State (2-1), UNLV (1-2) and Wyoming (0-1).
MOVING ON UP
Osiris Eldridge continues to pass the greatest scorers in ISU history. The Chicago native needs only 12 points to become the eighth Redbird player in Illinois State history to score 1,500-points in his career. He currently ranks No. 8 with 1,488 career tallies.
So far this season, the Redbirds had four different players post double-doubles. Dinma Odiakosa, Tony Lewis, Kellen Thornton and Jackie Carmichael have each collected double-digit points and rebounds in at least one game this season. Against Niagara, both Odiakosa and Carmichael notched double-doubles; while Odiakosa has posted a double-double in each of the last three games.
Dinma Odiakosa has been on a different wavelength to start this season. The Redbird senior is shooting 70.1 percent from the field (47-for-67), which not only leads the Missouri Valley Conference, but also ranks No. 2 in the nation, according to the NCAA stats dated Dec. 14.
OSIRIS, THE GOD OF THE THREES
In mythology, Osiris is an Egyptian god, typically called the god of the afterlife, underworld or dead. In Redbird lore, Osiris Eldridge is now the god of the three-point shot. With three treys against Central Michigan, Eldridge became the school-record holder and has 229 career three-point field goals, surpassing the old mark by Gregg Alexander of 224. Eldridge also ranks No. 16 in Missouri Valley Conference history.
309-STRAIGHT GAMES WITH A TREY
Illinois State enters the Utah game with at least one made three in 309-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton Dec. 12, 1999.
A BLOCK PARTY
Through eight games, it appears that the 2009-10 Redbirds could make a run at the school's blocked shot record. Currently, ISU is averaging 4.1 blocks per game, which is just behind the school mark of 4.9 swats per contest, set by the 1976-77 team. The Redbirds also have two of the top-four shot blockers in the Valley, as Jackie Carmichael averages 1.2 blocks per game and Dinma Odiakosa is posting one block per game.
Wednesday night Ohio sank 11 three-pointers against the Redbirds in the ISU loss. It marked the third time this season, in nine games, where the Redbird opponent posted double-digit threes in a contest. Last season, in 34 games, the Redbirds had three games where the opponent made double-figure treys.
START ME UP
With head coach Tim Jankovich being a huge Rolling Stones fan, he has to love the starts to the Redbirds' last two seasons. Last year, ISU opened the campaign with a 14-0 mark and this season the Redbirds jumped out to a 7-0 start. ISU had never had back-to-back 7-0 season starts in the history of the program.
The Redbirds are one loss away from a three-game losing streak. During the Tim Jankovich-era at Illinois State, the Redbirds have only experienced a three-game losing streak once. In the last week of February last season, ISU dropped three-straight games prior to the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference. The Redbirds loss at Niagara (70-56), Northern Iowa (69-67, 2ot) and at Creighton (74-70).
IN THE MOOD FOR A RUBIN
With seven-straight starting assignments, the Redbirds have been adding a Rubin to their diets - Alex Rubin. In the last three games, Rubin is really starting to show some offensive pop, as he's shooting 6-for-13 (.462) from three-point range. He is also shooting 50 percent (8-for-16) from the field during that time.
GETTING TO THE LINE
He's only a freshman, but Terry Johnson can get to the line. Currently, Johnson ranks No. 5 on the team with 17 made free throws. My prorating his minutes, Johnson would lead the team with 7.1 made free throws per game and 8.3 free throw attempts per contest. He leads the team with an 85 percent success rate from the charity stripe.
A RETURN TO POSTSEASON
Illinois State, which became an NCAA Division I program prior to the 1970-71 season, enjoyed postseason play for the 16th time last season. The Redbirds have qualified for the NCAA Tournament six times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1997 and 1998) and the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) 10 times (1977, 1978, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2008 and 2009).
After making the NIT each of the last two years, Illinois State posted successive postseason berths for the first time in over a decade. The last time the Redbirds had back-to-back postseason bids was during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, when ISU went to the NCAA Tournament each season.
THE LEADER OF THE PACK
Senior Osiris Eldridge is averaging 18.1 points per game this season, which is the highest scoring average in the Valley. If Eldridge can maintain this kind of output, he would become the first Redbird to lead the conference in scoring since Tarise Bryson in 2001. Bryson averaged 22.8 points per game en route to being named the MVC Player of the Year.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
With a 24-10 overall record last year, ISU secured itself another winning season in men's basketball. In the 38 years of being an NCAA Division I program, the Redbirds have had 31 winning seasons.
After being named the Valley's Preseason Player of the Year, junior Osiris Eldridge appears to have an inside track to join a select group. Eldridge won the conference's freshman of the year award in 2007. If he ends his Illinois State career with the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year Award, which he finished runner-up for last season, Eldridge would become only the second player in league history to win both the freshman of the year and player of the year award, joining Southern Illinois' Ashraf Amaya.
TWO SIGN FOR 2010 CLASS
Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich announced the signing of two incoming players during the early signing period. The Redbirds added Kenyon Smith (guard, 6-0, 190) from Lincoln College and Jordan Threloff (center, 6-10, 240) from DeKalb High School. Smith originally signed with ISU out of Simeon High School, but was declared academically ineligible by the NCAA. If he receives his associate's degree this school year, Smith will have three years of eligibility remaining at Illinois State, while Threloff will enter ISU as a true freshman.
STATUE OF ASPIRATIONS
In September 2009, the Redbird Athletics Department unveiled a statue which honors the nation's first African-American NCAA Division I head basketball coach, Will Robinson, and his most famous player, Doug Collins, a three-time All-American at Illinois State. The piece, which was installed at the north entrance of Redbird Arena, was sculpted by Lou Cella, a 1985 graduate of ISU. Robinson was named the Redbirds' head coach Feb. 27, 1970, and posted a 78-51 seasons in five seasons. He passed away at the age of 96, April 28, 2008.