NORMAL, Ill. — After losing their four game losing streak in their last outing, the Illinois State Redbirds got some redemption on Sunday in their 72-68 win over the Missouri State Bears.
The Redbirds fell to the Drake Bulldogs in their last outing, bringing an end to their four game win streak. At home on Sunday, Illinois State was looking to start a new streak at the expense of Missouri State, who came into the day riding their own four game winning streak. Thanks to 23 points apiece from Phil Fayne and Milik Yarbrough, the Redbirds bounced back and held down their home court.
Missouri State gave the Redbirds a fight in the second half. After trailing by as many as 10 points in the second frame, the Bears managed to take a three-point lead of their own with under four minutes to play. Illinois State wouldn’t allow the Bears to pull ahead any further, and they retook the lead in the closing minutes to secure the 72-68 win on their home floor.
NORMAL, Ill. — In the off-season, the Wichita State Shockers made the move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference.
The move added stiffer competition for the Shockers and bolstered the talent level of the AAC as a conference. At the same time, it opened up the Missouri Valley Conference and made the race for the league title much more exciting than in year’s past.
The Missouri State Bears came into the season as the preseason favourites, and have lived up to the bill through three games. Coming into Sunday’s contest against the Illinois State Redbirds, the Bears are one of just two teams who are still undefeated in Missouri Valley Conference play, along with the Drake Bulldogs (4-0).
Missouri State has won four straight games, and will be looking to move to 4-0 in conference play. The Redbirds won’t make things easy, as they are coming off a loss that ended their own four-game winning streak. On their home floor, Illinois State will be looking to start a new winning streak at the expense of the Bears.
CANMORE, Alta. — The second weekend of the 2017-18 season is officially in the books, and what a Sunday we all experienced to cap it off.
Admittedly, the first week of the season had its moments where it was a bit underwhelming. A lack of upsets left excitement on the table and fans wanting more, but we also got to experience our fair share of exciting basketball and close games. College basketball is unpredictable with each passing game, which is why we take it all in stride.
November 19th brought a little bit of everything to the forefront. A trio of early-season tournaments came to a close, a pair of top ten teams dodged upset bids, and we witnessed our fair share of overtime games that had fans on the edge of their seats right to the final buzzer.
CALGARY, Alta. — The 2017 transfer list is creeping up on 700 names.
Plenty of players have committed to their new schools, and have made some waves with their decisions in the process. Some of the decisions have changed the landscape of college basketball, like C.J. Bryce committing to Kevin Keatts and the NC State Wolfpack, or the Lawson brothers, Jack Whitman, and Charlie Moore committing to the Kansas Jayhawks, just to name a few.
While the majority of players have found their new homes, there is still a ton of talent still available on the transfer market. With the off-season slowing ticking away, available players are still taking official visits, in search of their next stop on their respective basketball journey.
Fifty-seven miles — that is the distance between State Farm Center and Redbird Arena. Despite the proximity, the Illinois State Redbirds and Illinois Fighting Illini have played just eight times in 97 years.
A ninth meeting may be in the works for Wednesday.
If #1 Illinois State defeats #4 UCF and #2 Illinois is victorious against #6 Boise State, the in-state rivals will play for a trip to the 2017 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) semifinals. It would be the first time the two have battled in the postseason since the 1980 NIT.
Because the matchup is one win away, Bloomington-Normal is buzzing over the possibility to knock off the heralded program.
“They are obviously having a down year, and we are having an up year,” said ISU class of 1999 graduate David DiMarzio. “We should beat them.”
The first meeting between ISU and U-of-I was in Normal, Illinois, on December 20, 1920. The Fighting Illini were the victors, winning 31-21. The initial contest was the LAST time the Redbirds hosted the most distinguished college basketball team in the state.
Ironically, the imbalance in scheduling led DiMarzio to alter his allegiance.
“I grew up as an Illini fan because I didn’t know any better. Then I came to ISU, and I found out that they won’t play us here (at Redbird Arena),” DiMarzio said. “That’s the big reason that I stopped liking them and cheering for them.”
Since 1920, Illinois has won seven straight contests against Illinois State. No game has been a full-fledged blowout, however. The Birds have kept within ten points in four of the eight contests. Moreover, the 2011-2012 squad took the Fighting Illini into deep waters at the Cancun Challenge before being edged 63-59.
Yet, this Redbirds’ team is more talented than five years ago. Although Illinois State had Nic Moore, Jackie Carmichael and Jon Ekey, their record (21-14) pales in comparison to the final campaign of seniors Paris Lee, Deontae Hawkins and Tony Wills (28-6).
With this in mind, Bloomington, Illinois, native Zachary Holland understands the significance of advancing to the semi-finals of a postseason tournament.
“That would be really big,” Holland said. “I don’t think that has ever happened.”
Holland is right: The Redbirds have not won a game, in either the NCAA Tournament or NIT, to move to the national semifinals.
Colleen Sherwood, who graduated from Illinois State last year, can describe the atmosphere for the Fighting Illini’s trip to Normal in one word.
“It would be crazy!” Sherwood said.
Whether the possible matchup leads to regular season contests is unknown. 2004 was the last time Illinois scheduled Illinois State for a non-conference bout.
Current ISU student Jacob Veazey has hope a victory could spark the beginning of a consistent rivalry.
“If we beat them in the tournament, I think it is a reason to schedule games yearly,” said Veazey.
School pride fills the community of Bloomington-Normal before tonight’s second round matchup versus UCF. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.
— P. Wesner
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