|Cowboys wrangle win over Redbirds|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Tuesday, 04 December 2012 23:29|
Illinois State’s contest against Wyoming on Tuesday proved that a first period triumph is not enough to take the game, as the ISU men’s basketball team suffered an 81-67 home loss to the Cowboys after leading by as much as 19 points in the first half.
The Redbirds are now perched on a 5-3 record, while Wyoming continues its undefeated season to 9-0.
“I’m very disappointed in our team … We lost confidence in our ability to do anything offensively, [and] our defensive intensity was not where it need[ed] to be the entire game,” ISU head coach Dan Muller said. “I’ve got to do a better job of [maintaining] their mental focus in this situation. For that to happen — to give up 52 points in a half, to let [Wyoming] shoot 64 percent, to turn the ball over 14 times in a half — that’s just embarrassingly bad basketball.”
Despite the shower of three-pointers ISU poured on Wyoming in the first half, including senior Tyler Brown’s 5-for-7 first-half effort beyond the arc and Jon Ekey’s 2-for-2 first-half effort, the Redbirds were unable to maintain their groove in the second half. ISU’s 20 turnovers produced 29 Cowboy points, 23 of which came in the second half, ultimately leading to ISU’s demise.
“How we played tonight is definitely not how we play. It’s very disappointing but it’s just something that we have to go back to the drawing board and work on and practice on. We just have to get better,” Brown said.
Brown totaled 22 points on the night, while Ekey contributed 13. John Wilkins added 12 points, including two three-point buckets in the second half.
To open the game, the Redbirds and the Cowboys traded baskets, but ISU would not allow Wyoming to take more than a two-point lead during the first half.
Tied at 21-21 with six minutes left in the period, a Wilkins tip-in gave ISU a two-point advantage before Brown nailed his third shot beyond the arc of the game. Ekey then answered Wyoming’s scoring efforts with back-to-back threes before Brown followed up with the same to top off a 12-0 run, helping to extend ISU’s lead to 43-29 at halftime.
ISU opened up the second half with a 7-2 run, including layups from Bryant Allen and Brown and a trey from Ekey to lengthen ISU’s margin to 19 points, 50-31 — its biggest lead of the game.
But as the clock neared the 15-minute mark, Wyoming began its comeback with seven quick points of its own to cut ISU’s lead to 50-38.
Despite back-to-back three-pointers by Wilkins, the Cowboys fought back with a 6-0 run to get within nine points at 60-51, triggering a Redbird timeout.
But the break did not change the momentum Wyoming was gaining, as the Cowboys cut ISU’s lead to 60-59 with 8:27 remaining in regulation.
With 4:22 left in the game, Wyoming took its first lead since the 8:21 mark of the first half, 67-66, and would not give it up for the duration of the game as the Cowboys would allow just one ISU point for the remainder of the contest.
“[That game] is going to be on my mind for a little bit,” Brown said. “Coach doesn’t allow us to think to much of it. But a loss like this, it hurts just because you expected so much of yourself as a player and as a team.
“It can get better, and it will get better, so I’m not worried about that, but I think being in the situation that we were, up by 19 at one point … and then having them come back like that, it’s very disappointing.”
The Redbirds will return to hit the Doug Collins Court hardwood again on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7:05 p.m. for a contest against Western Michigan.