Struggle continues for the Illinois State University Redbirds (6-12, 1-5 MVC), as the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (13-6, 5-1 MVC) came into Redbird Arena and defeated the ’Birds 62-50.
Losing their fifth straight game, Zach Copeland’s 17 points could not end the tough stretch.
The excessive number of turnovers committed by the ’Birds did not help their case for winning this game, as 22 turnovers made for very sloppy play.
The Redbirds started the game with a quick three from Copeland, which sent the 5,171 people in attendance into a roar. This is the way the Redbirds needed to start this game after losing their previous four, but soon after they struggled to score a point for the next five minutes. Along with the issues scoring, turning the ball over was a consistent problem that followed the Redbirds throughout the entirety of the game.
A series of inconsistencies followed both teams throughout the first half, where both teams committed over 10 turnovers. Sloppy play, which has been a thorn in the side of the Redbirds this season, seemed to be inescapable for both teams.
This lasted until the final 3:53 of the first half, when the Ramblers scored eight points while holding the Redbirds scoreless, tanking the Redbirds’ field goal percentage to 36%. Porter Moser was thrilled with his team’s effort right before halftime.
“Going with momentum into halftime was good. That is where that mental toughness came out; I thought we really were grinding. They [ISU] did some really good things, and then we answered it, and to answer that going into the half is always really good,” Moser said.
Some questionable no-calls and sloppy play combined for the Redbirds to fall apart in the last minute of the first half, giving the Ramblers a four-point lead going into halftime. The four-point advantage was Loyola-Chicago’s largest lead at that point in the game.
The narrative of poor play seemed to be following the Redbirds into the second half, as they were unable to score a point until the 15-minute mark.
Copeland began to catch fire though, shooting on many three-point opportunities, hitting 3-7 from beyond the arc. While Copeland was heating up though, very few teammates were able to follow. Dedric Boyd was the only player other than Copeland to score over five points in the last 20 minutes.
As Copeland began shooting the ball more, Muller was all for Copeland taking more shots late in the game. With several players having trouble garnering points, Copeland heating up was exactly what the ’Birds needed at that time.
“We wanted him [Copeland] to be even more aggressive, especially when guys were getting open looks and not knocking them down. We always want Zach to be aggressive, but at that time there were some guys not making shots,” Muller said.
Along with nine turnovers committed by the ’Birds, the deficit began to grow out of reach for ISU. The Ramblers continued to fight, cut down on the sloppy play and finished off the Redbirds 62-50.
“We played good enough defense today to beat them, of course 17 turnovers, holding them to 46%, which is well below their average. Offensively, our turnovers and our missed shots are why we lost,” Muller said.
Something that has given Redbird fans hope over the last couple of years was the ability to win on Doug Collins Court.
Due to the team’s issues on the road in recent years, fans count on victories at Redbird Arena.
Since Dan Muller’s first season with the team in 2012-2013, the team has won 95 home games out of 122 contests. Now losing their last two home games, if the Redbirds have any hope of turning it around this season, home games must result in victories.
The five-game losing streak looks to be wearing on the players, as Copeland could only describe the feeling as “tough.” Boyd still has confidence in this team to turn it around though, trying only to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I believe we can change this around. We can’t just put our heads down because we lose five games straight. It’s tough, it hurts, but then again we got to play more games,” Boyd said.
The Redbirds will be back in action as they travel to Peoria to take on the Bradley Braves 7 p.m. Wednesday.