110421-MBBvsDavenport-1 (copy)

Illinois State's Sy Chatman (1) avoids defender before going up for a layup against the Davenport Panthers Nov. 4, in Redbird Arena. In their return to court after having to post pone two games, the Redbirds lost to Drake 86-75. 

In its first game back after a week-long break due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the program, Illinois State men’s basketball fell to the Drake Bulldogs 86-75.

Wednesday night in Des Moines, Iowa, Kendall Lewis was leading the way with 20 points as the Redbirds fell short for their third-straight game, now 8-8 overall and 1-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Redbirds, starting with a limited lineup as they try to get past their COVID-19 woes, opened on top of a back-and-forth in the first five minutes at 10-9. Abdou Ndiaye got the start and quickly got six of the Birds’ first 10 points.

Sy Chatman came in off the bench early only one day out of COVID-19 protocol, hitting his first three-pointer of the season in his first shot of the game to build a Redbird lead at 13-10.

Drake took 10 minutes into the half with Garett Sturtz and Tucker DeVries leading the way. The Bulldogs also locked the Redbirds down on defense during this time, stopping MVC leading scorer Antonio Reeves and capitalizing with a 15-4 run into a 26-20 lead.

“Sy [Chatman] has had one day of practice [of the COVID-19 list],” ISU head coach Dan Muller said. “He [felt queasy] and had to come out early. We were not connected defensively, and some of that is fatigue.”

ISU trailed until Josiah Strong’s three-pointer, with about three minutes remaining, tied it up at 36. The Redbirds hit seven of their first 12 shots behind the arc.

The Redbirds and Bulldogs battled back and forth in the remaining minutes before Drake’s Roman Penn had a layup in the final seconds of the first half to take a one bucket lead into halftime, 44-42.

The Bulldogs opened the second half strong and took a 53-47 lead, their biggest since halfway through the first. The Redbirds showed their rust from lack of practice this week during this period especially.

“We did not have attention to detail in the scouting report,” Muller said, “We looked like a team that has not played in a while, especially defensively. It was a physical game.”

Off a turnover by Chatman, the Bulldogs’ Darnell Brodie got a bucket to build the Drake lead to nine at 64-55 with eleven minutes remaining.

The scoring was limited at the start of the second half as compared to the first, as Drake held a 75-65 lead after 15 minutes. Both teams began to score more toward the end of the half, but the Bulldogs held onto a double-digit lead.

The Bulldogs got their lead up to 83-72 with a minute and a half to go, ultimately sealing the deal on the win. Drake is 36-1 all-time under head coach Darian DeVries’ leadership.

“We competed, and I'm proud of our guys,” Muller said. “We did not come for any moral victories, I mean it. I thought we had an opportunity to win this game and I’m disappointed we did not, but we are rusty. It showed.”

ISU is still without sophomore Howard Fleming Jr., junior Liam McChesney, Malcolm Miller and Alex Kotov due to health and safety protocols.

The Redbirds will have another few days off to shake off the rust and get back to full health before returning to Normal for the first meeting of the I-74 rivalry this season, hosting Bradley at 7 p.m. Sunday at Redbird Arena.

The team that started off exceeding expectations will look to build some morale back and snap the losing skid against its rival.

MIKEY FORNELLI is a Sports Reporter for The Vidette. He can be contacted at mlforn1@ilstu.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @Mfojr  

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