Monday, January 06, 2014
Sports News

Redbirds secure first Valley win

Defeat Southern Illinois 66-48

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[January 06, 2014]  NORMAL  Illinois State used a 17-2 second-half run to pull away late and defeat Southern Illinois 66-48 Sunday afternoon at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds have now won five consecutive games at Redbird Arena, their longest home winning streak since since securing six straight home wins during the 2011-2012 season.

The Redbirds had their best defensive effort of the season, limiting Southern Illinois to just 32 percent shooting, including just 25 percent shooting (5 of 25) in the second half. Illinois State shot 42-percent from the floor and outscored SIU 28-17 in the second half.

Two Redbirds registered double-figure scoring, paced by Zach Lofton's game-high 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Lofton added four 3-point baskets and was 4 for 4 from the free-throw line. Bobby Hunter tallied 15 points, his seventh double-figure scoring effort over his last eight games. Paris Lee notched a career-high seven assists, and the Redbirds had 16 assists on 21 baskets. Illinois State won the rebounding advantage 37-35, and Lee had a game-best seven boards.

Southern Illinois opened the game on a 9-0 run, as Marcus Fillyaw and Desmar Jackson each tallied 3-point baskets and Sean O'Brien added a three-point foul play. Nick Zeisloft's 3-point basket with 17:20 to play in the half put Illinois State on the board, and after a SIU basket, Daishon Knight added a 3 to cut the deficit to 11-6 heading into the first media timeout.

Illinois State rallied for a 6-0 run out of the break, taking its first advantage of the game, 12-11, on a John Jones bucket. Following a Southern basket, Hunter hit his first 3, and Kaza Keane weaved through the lane for a layup, sparking a 9-2 run that built the Illinois State advantage to 21-15 midway through the opening half.

Facing a 26-19 deficit with 8:11 to play in the opening half, Southern Illinois went on an 8-2 swing to cut the Redbird advantage to 28-27. With the Salukis attempting to reclaim the lead, Lofton stole the ball from a cutting Jackson and went the length of the court for a layup, snapping the Southern Illinois run and extending the Redbird lead to 30-27 with three minutes to play in the first half. Jackson followed with a two-handed dunk, but on Illinois State's next possession, the Redbirds tallied a pair of offensive rebounds, leading to a Jones hook shot. Following a stop, Lofton drilled a 3 from the top of the key, giving Illinois State a six-point advantage, 35-29, with one minute left in the half.

With 0.4 seconds left in the opening half, the Salukis fouled Hunter from beyond the 3-point arc. The Redbird guard netted all three free throws, to put Illinois State on top 38-31 at halftime.

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Both teams opened the second half cold from the floor, with Southern netting just one free throw and 0-for-2 field goal shooting over the first three minutes of the half. The Redbirds missed their first four shots from the floor before committing a pair of turnovers, leading to five Salukis points. Hunter stopped the run with a 3-point basket from the top of the key, extending the Illinois State advantage to 41-36 with 15:59 to play in regulation.

After Southern Illinois cut the deficit to three, Lofton drilled a 3-pointer from in front of the Illinois State bench to double the advantage to six, 44-38, with 14:20 to go. Illinois State extended its advantage with a trio of defensive stops and four consecutive points from Hunter, building a 48-38 lead with 12 minutes on the clock.

Tony Wills' layup with 9:33 snapped a four-minute drought in which Illinois State did not make a field goal. He was fouled on the play and made the layup, giving Illinois State a 51-40 lead with nine minutes left. Lofton added a 3-point basket and Lynch finished a three-point foul play, adding to Illinois State's 17-2 run and giving Illinois State a 58-40 lead. The Salukis did not score for a three-minute stretch, before Jackson's 10-foot jumper with six minutes to go in regulation snapped the Redbird run.

Lofton's fading 3-point basket extended the Illinois State lead to 63-45 late in regulation, and the Illinois State defense did not relent, setting up Illinois State's 66-48 win.

The Redbirds return to action Wednesday, when they travel to Wichita, Kan., to take on Wichita State in a Missouri Valley Conference tilt. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. Illinois State next plays at home on Saturday, when Loyola visits Redbird Arena. Tickets can be secured by visiting or by calling 309-438-8000.

[Text from news release received from Illinois State University]

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