GAME NOTES: The Illinois State Redbirds will try to continue along as one of the Missouri Valley Conference's hottest teams on Wednesday night, as they play host to the Bradley Braves at Redbird Arena.
Considering Bradley's awful record during the 2011-12 campaign (7-25), this season has been an incredible success as it sits at 14-11 overall, but it has not played its best in recent weeks, losing four of its last six games. The Braves hosted Northern Iowa on Sunday afternoon and fell, 68-65, to drop below .500 in the MVC (6-7).
Illinois State looked like anything but a contender at the beginning of its MVC slate, as it lost its first six league matchups, but since then it has turned things around with wins in six of its last seven. The Redbirds' most impressive win of the season came this past Saturday when they took down nationally-ranked Creighton on the road, 75-72.
Illinois State had won seven straight games over Bradley before dropping the first meeting this season, 83-77, in Peoria on Jan. 29. The Braves hold a 62-53 advantage in the all-time series.
Bradley trailed UNI at the half by a convincing 37-18 margin, and even though it improved its field goal percentage from .259 in the first half to .655 in the second, its furious comeback bid fell short. Dyricus Simms-Edwards did all he could to lift his team to victory, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12- of-20 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range. Walt Lemon, Jr. was impressive with 18 points and nine rebounds, but he was also plagued by six turnovers. On the season, the Braves score 66.9 ppg while allowing 65.6 ppg, and they are active in the takeaway battle with an impressive +3.4 turnover margin. Lemon, Jr. pours in a team-high 15.0 ppg while chipping in 3.6 apg as well. Simms-Edwards scores 13.0 ppg, but that average has shot up to 21.5 ppg over the last four. Lemon, Jr. and Simms-Edwards are both elite perimeter defenders as well, as the two have combined for 129 steals (5.2 pg). Tyshon Pickett brings stability to the frontcourt with 11.0 ppg and 5.6 rpg.
Illinois State's defense stepped up in its latest game against Creighton, holding one of the best offenses in the nation to just 37.9 percent from the floor (including 17.4 percent from 3-point range), as it overcame a halftime deficit to capture the three-point victory. The Redbirds' shooting attack was on point for the most part, as they made nearly 50 percent of their field goal attempts, and they were led by Tyler Brown, who shot 10-of-18 from the floor for 27 points in an effort that helped him earn the MVC Player of the Week. Johnny Hill was also strong with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Jackie Carmichael tallied 16 points and six boards. The offensive outburst was nothing new for Illinois State, as it ranks second in the conference in scoring with 76.0 ppg on 46.5 percent field goal shooting. Carmichael is putting together an All-MVC-type season at forward, scoring 18.0 ppg on 54 percent shooting while grabbing 9.1 rpg and logging 1.9 bpg. Brown rounds out an outstanding inside-outside duo, draining 51 3-pointers en route to 16.4 ppg.
The Redbirds are hitting their stride just in time for the stretch run, and following their upset win at Creighton, they have the confidence that they can beat anyone in the league. At home, Illinois State should remain hot against an inconsistent Bradley squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Illinois State 77, Bradley 70
02/13 10:34:09 ET
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