Sports Editor | @beth_geist
Illinois State men’s basketball put on a shut-down defensive display in front of a season-high crowd of 9,380 and kept the momentum in its favor for the remainder of the game to defeat Bradley 64-50.
The Braves nearly broke the record for least number of points in a half on Doug Collins Court by only scoring 15 points in the first half. The record for least number of points scored in a half is 11.
“We struggled in that first half with keeping it all together during that run that they made,” Bradley coach Brian Wardle said. “It’s happened to us this year already and we’re still trying to learn our lesson there.”
Bradley started by scoring four minutes into the game — sinking one of two free throws — but remained scoreless for another eight minutes. The Braves came out of halftime with a new-found energy that closed the scoring gap by 12 in the second half.
“I think the realization of being down by about 15-20 [points], coming into the second half, there wasn’t really any pressure to the game as there is in the first half,” Bradley guard Jayden Hodgson said. “So we really had nothing to lose. We really laid it all out on the line.”
ISU’s play was riddled with turnovers, something the team has been struggling with all season.
“I’m more disappointed in our turnovers by far,” ISU coach Dan Muller said. “I think we tried to make some risky passes that we should not (have) and then we just had some bone-head plays. But I’m getting sick of talking about our turnover issues. It’s getting very frustrating.”
The Redbirds stuck to their zone defense nearly the whole game, something unusual for ISU.
“We (were) going to go, man, but the zone was doing very good,” senior forward Deontae Hawkins said. “Guys were active, so we just stuck with it.”
ISU struggled in the second half maintaining the nationally ranked defense the team is used to.
“That zone is actually very tiring to play, especially for our guards,” Muller said. “I thought I saw some fatigue in our guards and (Hawkins) is still not 100 percent, and I thought you saw some slippage with him.”
Hawkins attributes the lack of success with ISU’s second-half defense to the amount of effort put into the game.
“Our defense started slacking,” Hawkins said. “Later in the game Paris (Lee) called us out and told us we were too old to be following our old habits, so we just got to do better and play better next game.”
The game did not begin until 9 p.m., which is later than usual. Wardle said the late start did not affect the play of the game, but a lack of energy did.
“These are college students,” Wardle said. “They’re up late anyway. We just started on our heels.”
Hawkins left Tuesday’s game against Drake late in the second half with an ankle sprain, but he played 30 minutes Saturday.
“(My ankle) hurt, but I tried not to think about it when I was out there,” Hawkins said. “There were a couple times when I kind of tweaked it a little bit, but I wasn’t trying to worry about it.”
The Redbirds are still without junior forward MiKyle McIntosh who had surgery Feb. 1 to repair a torn meniscus. McIntosh averaged 13.5 points per game and 6.4 rebounds. He averaged 28 minutes per game. McIntosh dressed and warmed up with the team, but he did not play.
The team also had to do without freshman guard Madison Williams who is out with a knee injury that Muller describes as “nothing structural,” although Muller said “he wasn’t even close to being able to play today.”
The Redbirds will take on Missouri State at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo.