The Illinois State men’s basketball team won two-of-three games played over Thanksgiving break at the San Francisco Golden Gate Challenge (SFGGC) in San Francisco Calif.
The Redbirds went to the West Coast without their leading rebounder Michael Middlebrooks who was suspended from the team for violation of team rules.
“Mike has violated our team standards and is suspended indefinitely,” head coach DanMuller said to the Peoria Journal Star. “There are a number of things he will have to do to rejoin our team. We will continue to try to help Mike, but it will be up to him to accept our standards and accept accountability.”
ISU was defeated by Vermont (3-6) 87-76 on Wednesday, but managed big victories over Sonoma State (1-5) 75-58 on Friday and over San Francisco (USF) (5-4) 90-76 on Saturday. ISU, Vermont and USF each went 2-1 for the tournament, while Sonoma State went 0-3.
“We’re starting to make shots,” Muller said to WJBC following Saturday’s win over USF. “That is a couple games in a row that we’ve been making shots from the perimeter.”
ISU 90, USF 76
In the Redbirds’ final game of the SFGGC, they came out on top of tournament host USF 90-76 late Saturday night. For the first time since 2008 ISU had six players who scored in double figures with Zack Lofton, Paris Lee and Bobby Hunter putting up 15 points each, while Nick Zeisloft scored 14, Daishon Knight had 12 and Reggie Lynch chipped in 10.
Illinois State shared the ball with each other which freed up shooters with open looks to the basket. The ’Birds had a total of 22 assists compared with only 12 by USF. Knight led the team with six dishes, followed by five for Lofton, four for Hunter and Lee, and three for Kaza Keane.
“We can be hard to guard,” Muller said. “We have quickness when we get in transition. Especially, when we get the ball moving and we get the ball into the paint.”
ISU 75, Sonoma State 58
ISU got its first victory of the tournament against Sonoma State by rolling past the Seawolves on Friday night.
The Redbirds scoring attack was led by Knight, who had 21 points on 8-for-10 from the field, and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Lofton contributed 19 points, and Lynch led the team with seven rebounds, while he had three blocked shots and one steal.
“Top to bottom, I thought our guards played really well on both ends,” Muller said. “We’re going to start making more and more shots as the season goes on.”
Vermont 87, ISU 76
The Redbirds could not hold onto the 18-point lead they had late into the first half and fell to Vermont by 11 points in their first game of the SFGGC on Wednesday.
The Catamounts surged in the second half and their offense was too much for the ’Birds’ defense to handle. Vermont outscored ISU by 23 points in the second half — 19 of which came from Sandro Carissimo. He had a game-high 24 points.
“We tried all of our defenses, but we just had too many breakdowns the second half,” Muller said.
Illinois State was led by Lofton who netted 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting. Knight was next with 12 points, followed by John Jones with 11 and Hunter with 10.
The Redbirds return home to host Chicago State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Redbird Arena.