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Friday, Aug. 8

Redbirds' non-Valley schedule
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[AUG. 8, 2003]  NORMAL -- Five home dates, including ESPN's Bracket Buster II, and three of four road games to be played in the state highlight the 2003-04 Illinois State men's basketball non-conference schedule, which was officially released on July 29.

Head coach Porter Moser will have his work cut out for him in his inaugural season with the Redbirds, as Illinois State will face four teams, including three on the road, that ranked in the top 100 of the college basketball Rating Percentage Index last season.

"I'm looking forward to building a home-court advantage at Illinois State again," Moser said. "I played in Horton Field House and Redbird Arena, and I know how electric it can be. I'm prepared to go speak at every student group and community function in town. I'm going to make this happen.

For the second time in three years, after an 18-year hiatus, the Redbirds will face intrastate rival Illinois in Champaign. In a game slated for Jan. 3, the 'Birds will face longtime foe Bruce Weber in his first season with the Illini after a five-year stint at Southern Illinois.

"Being from Illinois and after taking this job, I was glad to see that we were able to keep the Illinois game on our schedule," Moser said. "This game is great for our program, our fans and the state of Illinois. It's a fantastic in-state rivalry -- one that I would like to see every year."

The Illini finished last season with a 25-7 mark and a No. 16 ranking in the RPI. Weber owns a 7-3 mark against the 'Birds.

In addition to traveling to Champaign, the Redbirds will face Northern Illinois and Illinois-Chicago on the road. The Huskies topped Illinois State 72-65 in Redbird Arena last season and finished with a 17-14 record. The Redbirds will face NIU on Nov. 26.

"Along with Illinois, playing Northern Illinois and UIC is also good for our fans," Moser added. "These are teams that people in the area know. Our players also know their players, which makes for strong rivalries."

On Dec. 13, the Redbirds will battle Illinois-Chicago in the Windy City for the first time since 1999. The Flames topped the 'Birds 78-65 last season in Normal before posting a 21-9 record and advancing to the National Invitation Tournament. UIC finished the year ranked No. 80 in the RPI.

Rounding out the away portion of the non-conference slate, the Redbirds will make a return trip to Utah State on Nov. 29. The Aggies dropped the 'Birds 68-53 in the season opener before losing to NCAA runner-up Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Utah State finished with a 22-9 record while ranking No. 86 in the RPI.


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"The non-conference schedule will be difficult," Moser said. "All the programs we are playing -- UIC, Western Kentucky, Utah State and Illinois -- are at the top of their league. And we will playing them all on the road, which should prepare us for the Valley, a league that a lot of people are saying is even stronger from top to bottom."

For the fourth straight season, Illinois State will open the men's basketball campaign in Redbird Arena, which in 2004 will house the Redbirds for the 15th year.

The 'Birds will host Florida A&M on Nov. 23, in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Rattlers finished the 2002-03 season with a 17-12 record.

On Dec. 2 Illinois State will host Bellarmine, a Division II school located in Louisville, Ky., for the second home game. The Knights ended the year with a 10-19 record. The Knights will be the 'Birds' first Division II opponent since 1999, when Illinois faced Puerto Rico-Mayaquez in the San Juan Shootout.

The Redbirds will also host Marshall and Western Kentucky, two teams that haven't played in Normal since the mid-1970s.

Marshall comes to Illinois State on Dec. 6 as a return game from the initial ESPN Bracket Buster Saturday game last season, when the Redbirds stunned the Thundering Herd 57-53. It was only the second victory by a non-conference opponent in Huntington in the last seven years. Marshall ended the year 13-15.

 The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers travel to Illinois State on Dec. 16. WKU finished last season with a 23-9 record, which included a first-round loss to Illinois at the NCAA Tournament and a No. 59 RPI ranking.

In addition to the Marshall game in December, the Redbirds will host a second ESPN Bracket Buster II game on Feb. 21. With an expanded field for this year's event, the Redbirds are currently slated for a home game.

"I'm really excited about getting to host an ESPN Bracket Buster game," Moser said. "This is one of the most exciting and creative concepts to come out of college basketball in a while. The players love it and so should the fans. It's a great way to promote our program and to help us schedule home games with teams that normally wouldn't want to come into Redbird Arena."

Season tickets for the upcoming men's basketball season are currently on sale. For more information, please call the ticket office at Redbird Arena, (309) 438-8000.

Click here for the 2003-04 Illinois State men's basketball prospectus (in Adobe Acrobat). [Click here to download the Adobe Acrobat reader.]

[Todd Kober, director of athletics media relations,
Illinois State University]

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