TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA---From the best mid-major conference in the country, the Illinois State Redbirds entered Saturday's action as one of three Missouri Valley Conference teams to be unbeaten after three conference matchups (Wichita State & Southern Illinois).
And now there is two
Beginning the contest with eight straight points as a part of an 11-2 run, Illinois State flew out to a sizable advantage thanks to three triples, two of which came from Paris Lee.
Despite the Sycamores eventually putting points on the board with five of Devonte Brown's 15, the Redbirds continued to keep a three-possession lead with back-to-back layups (MiKyle McIntosh and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell) heading into the eleven minute mark in the first half. However, the gap would not sustain, for Indiana State branched together eight consecutive to wither their deficit to one.
Nevertheless, the margin would stay as such for just one minute since ten straight, five from each Quintin Brewer and MiKyle McIntosh, supplied the road team with a game-high 13-point lead (3:25 remaining in first half). Would the Sycamores finally wilt?
No! Not at all actually! Spurred by their backcourt, five more from Scott in addition to four by JUCO transfer Everett Clemons, Indiana State was able to continue to participate in a half full of runs while heading into the halftime locker room trailing only six (34-28).
Remember the old saying: How a team plays in the last four and first four minutes of a half decides the game?
In this case, it did.
Because of Greg Lansing's squad storming back in the first and continuing their comeback in the second twenty minutes, Indiana State found themselves down a measly three points going into the under-16 media timeout (42-39). Furthermore, less than a minute later, the Sycamores owned a 43-42 lead! And it would grow from there.
Following a single trading of baskets, Scott nailed not one, not two, but three three-pointers to supply nine of his game-high 20 points and make the scoreboard read 54-46 Indiana State. Now the Redbirds were the ones in a gut-check moment!
Unable to make a field goal for more than two minutes, Dan Muller's Illinois State Redbirds soon found "The Forest" energetic and the game slipping away, for they were now trailing by a game-high 12 points. Yet, just like their opponent in the first half, it took an 8-0 spurt to turn a big disadvantage into a small deficit.
It all started with two of Paris Lee's 18 points on a made jumper with 8:03 remaining in regulation. Then, the next thing anyone knew the score read Indiana State 62, Illinois State 60. What happened? Two point-filled possessions, two points coming from both Paris Lee and MiKyle McIntosh (he had 20 on the day), as well as two made attempts from the charity stripe by McIntosh happened! We once again had ourselves a ballgame!
Leaving the under four media timeout down only three, Illinois State was in a great position to take back the lead and move to 4-0 in conference play. And they would have, if they didn't foul seven times in the final 2:46, which prompted 14 Sycamores' free throws. Additionally, the Redbirds couldn't put the "biscuit in the basket." DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell layup? Off the mark! Deontae Hawkins from beyond the arc? No dice! All in all, Illinois State scored just two total points on zero-of-nine shooting following the final media timeout while Indiana State netted 12 of their 14 free throws. Unbeaten no more.
Rebounds & Free Throws
Fundamentals friends, they go a long way! Faced with a very good rebounding team, the Indiana State Sycamores continued their domination on the glass by not just edging Illinois State by a few boards but by 12! But that isn't even the most impressive part: The top two rebounders were guards! Yes, 6'1" Everett Clemons grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds while Brenton Scott pulled down 9! Yet that is not all, the Sycamores showed composure and time spent practicing at the charity stripe by making 12-of-14 in the final three minutes and shooting 72.7% (24-33) total. The aforementioned Scott made the most free throws on the day as he knocked down 10 of his 13 attempts. 9-7 (3-1) Indiana State is in line for more tests--maybe "exams" is a better word--as they host Northern Iowa Wednesday before traveling to Wichita for what will be another showdown, this time with Wichita State, next Sunday.
Had a Bad Day
As Illinois State's one consistent scorer, "star senior" DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell needed to have a good--if not great--performance inside the Hulman Center. He did not. Held to his second lowest total in his senior campaign, Akoon-Purcell was unable to become comfortable on offensive, resulting in an "okay" (not for him though) 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the floor. Additionally, the 6'5" guard's opponent was able to pressure him into committing 3 turnovers. "DAP" and 9-8 (3-1) Illinois State will travel to the surprise of the MVC thus far, Southern Illinois, in a contest sure to be close and exciting.