The only way for a team to get back in a winning headspace is to simply win.
Losing five of their last six, the Illinois State University men’s basketball team badly needed a win at home against Morehead State. Despite some bumps, the Redbirds secured the 61-50 win over the Eagles.
Just like in the Redbirds’ 81-69 loss to TCU earlier this week, the Redbirds came out of the gate playing strong basketball. Just like their matchup with the Horned Frogs, the ’Birds found their footing early taking an eight-point lead.
"We needed a win super badly, we have been on a losing streak and it is good to come back home and get the support from our fans," senior Zach Copeland said.
Keith Fisher III added that despite the win the ’Birds still have a long way to go.
"Job is not finished though, we have not really done anything yet," Fisher said.
The Eagles struggled with a Redbird defense that was all over them as they struggled to find separation and shot 34.5% (20% from three) before halftime. While the Redbirds were blanketing the Morehead State Offense, it began to sputter.
Fisher sees the Redbirds’ defense against the Eagles as the best of the season.
"I think that was for sure our best defensive performance. There is no secret that we have struggled in the second half guarding," Fisher said. "We did a really good job on focusing on that and doing our job."
Bringing it to three with seven minutes left in the first half, ISU allowed the Eagles to make it a one-possession game once again. But the ’Birds found some separation as Copeland and Rey Idowu sank four shots from the charity stripe for a small piece of insurance.
Coming out of halftime neither team could find their shot. The ’Birds opened the half shooting 2-14 (14.3%) through the first eight minutes. The Eagles did not fare much better shooting 3-10 (30%) during that same time frame.
"One of our points of emphasis was to get stop after stop. We call three stops in a row a shutout and Muller was preaching that today," Copeland said.
"Our offense could have been way better with more movement but defense wins games. We were just shooting too fast. We did not get to the second and third sides as we preach."
But ISU found its stroke. After a timeout called by the Eagles, ISU came out and sank its first two attempts, including a three-ball from Ricky Torres. Shooting 6-9 (66%) after that timeout the ’Birds stretched out to a 54-39 lead.
The ’Birds began to pile it on from three-point range shooting a strong 7-15 (46.7%) from beyond the arc. Freshman DJ Horne led that charge with three.
Horne once again proved he deserves a starting spot in Muller’s starting lineup.
"At practice coach is always telling me to get my mind through the flow of the offense. Whenever I make a shot I just let the offense go through me," Horne said.
But Muller notes Horne's defense for the chance in the lineup.
Earning his first start against TCU, Horne netted 13 points over 26 minutes. Finding himself in the starting lineup once again against the Eagles, Horne flourished posting 14 points marking the third straight game Horne has broken the double-digit mark.
Copeland led the ’Birds with 16 points. Horne trailed him with 14 and Fisher added 10.
The Redbirds will be back in action 1 p.m. Dec. 15 at Northern Kentucky.