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Dean of Students

ISU hosts No. 5 Shockers

In Wichita’s last visit to Redbird Arena, a flagrant foul issued against former Illinois State standout Jackie Carmichael in the final minute was the difference in the game. 

Archive Photo:  Wichita State is the highest ranked team ever to enter Redbird Arena. The Redbirds encourage all students and fans to wear red to show their support.

Archive Photo:
Wichita State is the highest ranked team ever to enter Redbird Arena. The Redbirds encourage all students and fans to wear red to show their support.

In Wichita’s last visit to Redbird Arena, a flagrant foul issued against former Illinois State standout Jackie Carmichael in the final minute was the difference in the game.

The ensuing free throws — which were awarded to the wrong player — triggered an 8-0 run that would lead the Shockers to a come-from-behind victory and leave a bad taste in the mouth of Redbird Nation.

But heading into tonight’s game against the nationally ranked No. 5 Shockers, ISU head men’s basketball coach Dan Muller is not focused, nor worried about the past.

“Right now it’s just a game against a team that’s in first place in our conference [and] highly ranked,” Muller said. “Last year’s game we played won’t affect tonight. It’s just a matter of playing the best we can for 40 minutes.”

Wichita State enters the game as the highest-ranked opponent ever to step foot onto the Redbird Arena hardwood, as the last time ISU hosted a top-five ranked team was when No. 2 Purdue played at Horton Field House in 1987.

Despite rankings and polls favoring Wichita, the Redbirds are coming off of a seven-game winning streak at Redbird Arena and are familiar with upsets, having defeated No. 25 Dayton, 81-75, in December earlier this season.

“Winning at home has been huge,” Muller said. ”Our guys are comfortable at home now, and we certainly want to defend our home court and have a great arena and a great atmosphere here at Redbird Arena. Hopefully it gives us some confidence heading into [tonight’s] game.”

Earlier this season the Redbirds fell to the Shockers in a 66-47 decision at Wichita. Tonight’s game marks the first time this season that ISU will have faced its opponent once already this year.

“I do think that’s one of the nice things about having already played them; we’ve seen them and we’re comfortable,” Muller said. “We haven’t done a lot different [in practice]. Really, the only thing that’s different is we’ve played them already this year … So we had some film from the previous game.”

While seeing that ranked number before a team’s name can place additional pressure on the underdog, Muller has made it a point to emphasize the fact that tonight is “just another game.”

“It’s what athletics is about — trying to get your players to play at that optimum level every game,” Muller said. “I hope the ranking doesn’t make them anything except excited and confident. I know they’ll be excited tomorrow night, but the key is to get them to where they’re not too hyped up — they’re just in that right mindset to play well.”

The fans, Muller notes, will also be a crucial factor in tonight’s game.

“The student fans specifically are huge. They’re what make home court advantage an advantage,” he said. “It’s loud when it’s supposed to be loud; it’s our team getting confidence from our student section; it’s the other team hopefully getting rattled because of it. Come second half, the students are right behind the opposing team’s basket.”

Illinois State athletics has dubbed tonight as the “Red Out Wichita State” game, encouraging all fans to wear red.

“We’re hoping to get the entire student section full on the bottom and top of the arena,” Muller said. “If you’re a fan or a student, it’s the perfect game to come to. We’re playing well, we have a fun and exciting team to watch and we’re playing a really good team.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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