Monday, November 24, 2014
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ISU Basketball
Redbirds Open Paradise Jam with 73-64 Win Over Weber State

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[November 24, 2014]  ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands – DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell seemed right at home in the UVI Sports and Fitness Center Friday night, scoring a game-high and career-best 20 points with seven rebounds to help Illinois State top Weber State, 73-64, during the opening round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.

In a homecoming of sorts for Akoon-Purcell whose father grew up in St. Thomas, the junior transfer went 8-for-15 (53.3 percent) from the field and 3-for-5 (60 percent) from beyond the arc while collecting two assists and one steal. Daishon Knight added 18 points and Reggie Lynch chipped in 12, plus five rebounds. As a team, the Redbirds (1-1) shot 46 percent from the field and outrebounded Weber State (1-2), 34-27.

Illinois State moves on to face Old Dominion for the first time in program history, Sunday at 8 p.m. CT in the Paradise Jam semifinals. The game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network. Old Dominion advanced by beating LSU, 70-61, Friday evening in the Monarchs’ Paradise Jam opener.

During a game in which the Redbirds led for 36 minutes and 32 seconds, Lynch set the tone early by scoring eight of ISU’s first 13 points. Weber State initially answered basket-for-basket and took a 15-13 lead at the 14:48 mark, the Wildcats’ largest advantage of the game.

However, Illinois State responded with a 20-0 run capped by a Lynch steal, followed by a Paris Lee assist on a Lynch layup. Bobby Hunter and Akoon-Purcell also buried 3-pointers during the stretch. The Redbirds matched their largest lead of the first half when, with three seconds remaining, Lee forced a steal and then scored a buzzer-beating layup to lift Illinois State ahead, 44-28, at halftime.

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After Weber State pulled within 11 points at the 13:47 mark, ISU outscored the Monarchs, 8-2. But WSU narrowed the margin again, using a 10-0 run to cut Illinois State’s advantage to 59-64, with 4:10 remaining on back-to-back free throws from Joel Bolomboy. Akoon-Purcell stopped the Redbirds’ three-and-a-half minute scoring drought by scoring a key layup at the 3:50 mark. Knight went on to make four-straight free throws to secure ISU’s first win of the 2014-15 season.

With Friday night’s victory, the Redbirds topped a 2014 NCAA Tournament qualifier. ISU next faces Old Dominion Sunday at 8 p.m. CT in the Paradise Jam semifinals.

[John Twork, Illinois State University]

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