Illinois State University men’s basketball split last week's slate of games came with a merciless beat down from Ohio State and an encouraging landslide over University of Massachusetts Lowell where the Redbirds never trailed.
Illinois State head coach Dan Muller spoke of the importance of the win over the River Hawks.
"I don't like to say 'need' very often, but I kind of felt we needed to win this game for our confidence, our psyche, our togetherness going forward. This wasn't a must-win because it's our second game of the season, but we needed it to give us the best chance to keep growing," Muller said.
The Redbirds now point their focus to the Greenville Panthers, who are a Division III school that ISU added to its schedule on Monday.
Greenville on the season sits at 0-3, after falling to Division I opponents Samford, Kansas City and Murray State by an average of 65 points.
With that being said here are five things to watch for in the Wednesday contest:
A new face making a good first impression as a Redbird is Josiah Strong, who was announced as the Newcomer of the Week by the Missouri Valley Conference. Strong was consistent and the leading scorer averaging 18.0 points per game in the two contests played against Ohio State University and UMass Lowell.
Filling out the backcourt alongside sophomores DJ Horne and Antonio Reeves, Strong has the mindset to be the aggressive scorer ISU needs him to be.
The trio of returners that had leadership roles dubbed upon them are off to rough starts in the newborn season. Horne, Reeves and Dedric Boyd. Horne and Reeves’ troubling efforts from beyond the arc put much of the scoring pressure on the junior transfer Strong. Horne and Reeves combine for a 7-of-22 shooting clip from three.
Boyd altogether has struggled on the offensive end of the ball. Currently shooting 13% from the field, Boyd has one made basket. Muller had been adamant about how crucial it is for consistency among the experienced guys in the group, and the cold start doesn't do the team any favors.
Panthers high-scoring offense
As the Panthers are known for being quick to pounce, Greenville brings in a high-scoring offense that prioritizes three-point shooting on available shots, full-court trapping defense and using its bench depth.
In Greenville's three games this season, the Panthers average 97.0 points per game. High scoring yes, but unimpressive compared to their opponents’ point totals. Samford scored 102 points in just the first half against the Division III school and finished the game with 174 points. Kansas City did not quite reach that number, but still dropped 138, while Marquette reached 173 points.
The Panthers are led by Kenneth Cooley, who is averaging 14.0 points per game. Jarred Johnson and Romello Ball chip in double digit point totals as well. Through three games, nearly 70% of Greenville's shots have come from three-point range.
The Redbirds could be in for a field day, and Muller says he sees this game to be an opportunity for his guys to go out there and have fun and grow as a team.
A weekend slates
As Greenville was a late addition to the Redbird schedule, getting confirmed on Monday, Muller says that plans are in the works to have a game over the weekend. While he didn't go into any specifics on an opponent or if he preferred a home or away matchup, he seemed confident in there being a game sometime later this week.
How to follow
The game, which begins 5 p.m. at Redbird Arena will be available to watch live on ESPN3. Fans can also listen live on WJBC AM 1230. Sports Editors Jake Fogal and Jake Sermersheim will be live tweeting the game from @Vidette_Sports on Twitter.