A win against Indiana State University over the weekend could lead to big things down the stretch for the Illinois State University men’s basketball team.
With six Missouri Valley Conference games remaining, the Redbirds still have an opportunity to make a run to avoid a Thursday play-in game in the MVC Tournament if they can build momentum. Tough matchups against the University of Iowa and Valparaiso this week will likely give a look at what ISU can do down the stretch.
But despite a tough test ahead, ISU senior Jaycee Hillsman is confident in what the Redbirds can do.
“This win is very pivotal, especially at this point in the season. It’s good to have a win and start building toward being a better team and being the best team, we can be, especially towards March,” Hillsman said after the 74-67 win over the Sycamores.
ISU opens the weekend traveling to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on UNI 7 p.m. Feb. 12. In the MVC opener, the Redbirds upset UNI with a 76-70 win.
A strong second half lifted ISU over the Panthers thanks to 22 points from freshman point guard DJ Horne. UNI was led with 23 points by AJ Green.
But the two teams have gone on opposite paths since then. UNI sits at the top of the conference with a 10-2 record. While the Redbirds sit second-to-last in the Valley with a 3-9 record.
Traveling to the McLeod Center will be a tough challenge for the Redbirds. At home, UNI is 13-0, while on the road the Redbirds are 0-9.
UNI’s offense will likely overwhelm the Redbirds this time around, looking at recent trends. In MVC play UNI has the top-ranking offense averaging 77 points per game, while ISU sits in eighth and ninth in points allowed (70 ppg) and offensive scoring (66.3 ppg).
On Feb. 15 the Redbirds host Valparaiso two weeks after the first face-off this season. The first time around the Crusaders came out on top at home with an 80-70 win.
That game the Redbirds had four of five starters in double-digit scoring, but a weak defensive effort and foul trouble gave the Crusaders the upper hand.
Ben Krikke came off the bench to lead Valpo with 17 points.
Valpo is nearly as tough of a matchup offensively as they rank second in the Valley averaging 72.4 ppg. But the Crusaders are weak defensively, ranking behind ISU, allowing opponents to score over 72 ppg.