Illinois State (5-4) at Oakland (2-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, December 16, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics Center O'rena (4,005) -- Rochester, Michigan. Television: HLN. Home Record: Illinois State 2-2, Oakland 2-1. Away Record: Illinois State 2-1, Oakland 0-7. Neutral Record: Illinois State 1-1, Oakland 0-1. Conference Record: Illinois State 0-0, Oakland 0-0. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 4-1.
GAME NOTES: The streaking Illinois State Redbirds will clash with the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in a non-conference battle at the Athletics Center O'rena on Monday.
A poor start to the campaign has largely been forgotten for Illinois State, which has won four straight games. The last triumph in the run was the most impressive of the season, as the Redbirds upset No. 25 Dayton on Dec. 7.
Oakland also battled a nationally-ranked opponent last time it hit the floor. Unfortunately for the Golden Grizzlies their encounter with No. 5 Michigan State ended in a 67-63 loss. Oakland has played one of the hardest schedules in the country early on, with bouts against North Carolina, UCLA, Gonzaga, Indiana and Michigan State all contributing to the team's less than stellar 2-9 record.
Two seasons ago Illinois State collected a 79-75 victory at Redbird Arena. The win was the fourth in five all-time meetings with Oakland.
Daishon Knight scored 20 points to carry Illinois State over Dayton last time out. The Redbirds shot at a 50-percent clip, including an 8-of-20 showing from beyond the arc.
Knight (14.4 ppg) struggled early in the season but has picked up the pace of late. After netting 14 points combined in the first two games of the year, Knight has had 15 or more in all but one contest since. The second option offensively is Zach Lofton (13.2 ppg), who is the only other player averaging in double figures, although Bobby Hunter (9.8 ppg) isn't far off the mark. The Redbirds are lacking in the frontcourt however, especially since Michael Middlebrooks (5.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) was suspended at the end of November. No other player on the roster is bringing in more than five rebounds per game.
Oakland attempted to utilize 3-point shooting to push past Michigan State, but the strategy failed. The Golden Grizzlies hoisted up 27 shots from beyond the arc but only sank eight of those attempts. Duke Mondy had 24 points and Travis Bader finished with, 18 but he connected on just 5-of-20 shots, including 4- of-14 from beyond the arc.
Bader (19.9 ppg) and Mondy (12.8 ppg, 4.4 apg) lead the way for Oakland, as two of three double-figure scorers currently on the roster. Bader is putting up big numbers, but is not the most efficient scorer, as he connects on just 36 percent of his field goal attempts. Mondy is a bit more versatile, showing up on the stat sheet as the team's leader in assists as well as one of its leading rebounders. Corey Petros (11.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) brings balance on the interior with his ability to score and rebound. Kahlil Felder (7.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) settles in the backcourt with Monday and Bader, while Mitch Baenziger provides a lift off the bench.
The Golden Grizzlies have an advantage up front as well as the benefit of being the host team in this matchup. However, the Redbirds' balanced backcourt will provide enough to keep the win streak going.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 78, Oakland 72
12/16 10:33:03 ET