Prior to playing in Saturday night’s contest against Dayton, Illinois State junior guard Daishon Knight watched Colorado upset Kansas on a game-winning three-pointer, resulting in the Colorado crowd storming the court. What he did not know was he would experience a similar crowd reaction among Redbird fans after ISU upset No. 25 Dayton in an 81-75 decision at Redbird Arena.
“When I turned around and saw [the crowd] coming, I was like ‘Oh, it’s happening,’” Knight said.
“We have class with a lot of these students. When we’re in class with them we tell them ‘Hey come out to the basketball game’ and try to build relationships with them and tonight it definitely showed,” ISU redshirt junior guard Bobby Hunter said. “We had a great student section and it was fun to see them rush the court and celebrate that win with us.”
Knight led the Redbird offense with 20 points, with Hunter (16 points), Zach Lofton (13 points) and Reggie Lynch (10 points) rounding out the ISU double-digit scorers. Knight added six rebounds and four assists, while Lynch culminated six rebounds. Seven Redbirds nailed three-pointers, including two from Nick Zeisloft.
ISU out-shot Dayton 50 percent to 49.1 percent from the field with a 40 percent shooting effort from the free throw line and a 67.7 percent effort from beyond-the-arc.
Saturday night’s win against the No. 25 Flyers marked the first win against a nationally ranked opponent in Redbird Arena, and the first win over a nationally ranked team since the ’Birds’ victory over Creighton on Feb. 9, 2013.
“Of course it kind of seems like a different sort of team because only 25 teams have that number by their name, but as we played the game, it was just another game. We just went out there and play the same game hard,” Knight said.
Knight noted that the Redbirds’ early 4-0 lead in the first 30 seconds of play contributed to a higher energy-level amongst the team.
ISU maintained the lead throughout the first half’s entirety and did not let the Flyers get ahead until the 12:43 mark of the second half when back-to-back three-pointers put Dayton up 50-48.
The ’Birds battled back however, with a jumper from Lofton and a trey from Ziesloft to give ISU the lead back at 53-50. Baskets would continue to be exchanged, but the Redbirds would not give up the lead for the remainder of the game.
“They showed me that they’re growing maybe even quicker than I thought we would,” ISU head coach Dan Muller said. “We’re growing, not just with our game and making shots, but we’re growing mentally and with our mindsets, and that’s the most important thing.”
“[ISU is a] very, very tough-minded group,” Dayton head coach Archie Miller said. “They’re very tough to guard. I give them all the credit in the world. They were the more aggressive team, they were the tougher team, they were the team that really threw as many punches as any team has thrown at us all season.”
The Redbirds will have a full week of downtime from contests as they head into finals week. They will resume action on the hardwood on Monday, Dec. 16 at Oakland, with tipoff slated for 6 p.m.