Illinois State’s men’s basketball team fought tooth and nail with Missouri State Tuesday night, eventually toppling the Bears in a 67-63 decision.
ISU’s defense forced 21 Bears turnovers, the most Missouri State has seen since 2007. The Redbirds and Bears tied six times during the contest, and the lead changed a dizzying eight times before the final buzzer.
“That’s a part of the game,” Bobby Hunter said. “You’re not going to make every shot, you just have to buckle down on defense and get some stops.”
Leading the Redbirds offensive campaign was Daishon Knight, adding 17 points. Knight was aided by teammates Hunter and Nick Zeisloft, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively.
This win marks the 11th of the last 12 games played on Doug Collins Court and the fourth consecutive home win. ISU is now 7-1 at home in Missouri Valley Conference standings with one game to go.
Reggie Lynch added four blocks during the game, tying him with former Redbird Jackie Carmichael for No. 2 on the single-season list with 68 blocks.
ISU and Missouri State traded baskets cyclically for the first three minutes of play time, with ISU first on the board. Missouri State took the lead for the first time at 9-7.
The Redbirds came back quickly with a 9-0 run including a three-pointer by Zeisloft and two jumpers by Knight, putting ISU back in the lead with a 16-9 score.
After scoring a gap-closing basket, bringing the score to 16-11, Missouri did not score for the next seven minutes while the Redbirds extended the run to 19-4 and had a 26-13 advantage after five straight points from Knight with 5:29 left in the first half.
ISU did not let up, scoring four points on a pair of Hunter free throws and a fast-break layup off of a steal by Paris Lee.
The Redbirds’ double digit lead did not last long, as Missouri State went on a 5-0 run, leaving ISU ahead, 32-26 heading into the locker room.
“The first half we were doing some really good shots, we were getting open looks for threes and making a lot of two’s,” Zeisloft said.
The Bears came off of half time roaring, cutting ISU’s lead to four points, but were quickly shut down by a Lynch free throw and a fast-break layup by Hunter, widening the gap to seven points in the Redbirds’ favor.
Missouri State refused to give up, going on a 8-3 run to end within two points of ISU, forcing a Redbird time out.
Points continued to fall off of the Redbirds’ lead as the Bears kept at it, eventually taking a 46-45 lead with under 10 minutes left in the contest.
This lead was the first for the Bears since early in the first half and did not last long, thanks to a pair of Lee free throws, putting ISU back in the lead.
Zeisloft answered a Missouri three with a trey of his own, giving ISU the 56-55 advantage.
The lead was traded numerous times within the last five minutes of regulation play, eventually ending with an inflated ISU lead thanks to a pair of free throws by Knight and two by Lee.
ISU ended the night on top, defeating the Missouri State Bears, 67-63.
“We have not had a lot of close games this year, but the guys made big plays and our man ‘defense’ was very good to us,” head coach Dan Muller said.
The Redbirds head back on the road at 4 p.m. Sunday to face Northern Iowa at the McLeod Center.