MBB 12/4-11 (copy)

Luke Kasubke shoots during Illinois State's 87-77 win over Belmont Sunday. 

Illinois State men’s basketball understands just how valuable junior guard Luke Kasubke is to the team.

The Redbirds are just waiting for everyone else to catch on.

“You guys don’t give enough credit for Luke’s defense, because it’s phenomenal,” Liam McChesney said during the press conference after ISU’s 87-77 win over Belmont Sunday.

McChesney was not asked about Kasubke’s defense. The focus was on McChesney’s career-high 25 points and Kasubke’s shooting performance that saw him hit four-straight three-pointers.  

It would have been easy for McChesney to bask in his career game, but he made sure to highlight how Kasubke’s efforts helped the team win its first home game of the Ryan Pedon era.

“I thought Luke played the best game he’s played in probably four or five games. Part of that was due to his sickness, of course,” Pedon said after the Belmont victory.

Kasubke missed the first game of the Cayman Islands Classic due to illness. The Kansas State transfer had been working back to full health, and the Belmont matchup was his reemergence.

McChesney’s point about Kasubke’s defense was proven in the Redbirds’ 87-81 win over Eastern Michigan Wednesday.

Kasubke held former No. 1 recruit Emoni Bates to just nine points as the NBA hopeful's primary defender. The reason Kasubke was able to lock up Bates was simple to fifth-year guard Colton Sandage.

“Because Luke’s a dog,” Sandage said.

The hope was that any Redbird tasked with guarding Bates would provide the same defensive efficiency. Kasubke took the weight off his teammates by doing it himself.  

“We could have put anybody on him and Coach would have expected you to be able to lock him down like that,” Kendall Lewis said. “But Luke was there, and he took the challenge. And he did it. Nobody else needed to do it.”

Kasubke’s defensive efforts made a difference against the Eagles, and Pedon took notice.

“Luke’s a very detailed defender, if you watch him,” Pedon said. “What you’re seeing there is a guy that is a seasoned veteran, that understands his importance and how he can impact games on both sides of the ball.”

Kasubke’s impact will continue to benefit the Redbirds, whether it is on offense or defense. His resilience is something ISU relies on to make everything else work.

“I can’t tell you I knew he would hold [Bates] to nine points,” Pedon said. “But I knew if he was going to go down, he was going to go down swinging,”

As Missouri Valley Conference play gets into full swing towards the end of December, the fight Kasubke brings is a necessity to keep the Redbirds in games.

Before then, the Redbirds will look for Kasubke’s grit to help lift them over Southern Illlinois-Edwardsville at 3 p.m. Saturday in the program’s historic return to Horton Field House.

REID WATKINS is Sports Editor for The Vidette. Watkins can be contacted at rdwatk1@ilstu.edu. Follow Watkins on Twitter at @rwatkinssports 

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