Indiana State (21-7) at Illinois State (15-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 26, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Redbird Arena (10,200) -- Normal, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Indiana State 11-1, Illinois State 11-3. Away Record: Indiana State 9-5, Illinois State 3-9. Neutral Record: Indiana State 1-1, Illinois State 1-1. Conference Record: Indiana State 12-4, Illinois State 8-8. Series Record: Illinois State leads, 59-51.
GAME NOTES: The second-best team in the Missouri Valley Conference is hitting the road tonight, paying a visit to the Illinois State Redbirds, as the Indiana State Sycamores begin the final week of regular-season outings.
Perhaps any other season a record of 21-7 overall and 12-4 in conference would garner some attention, but the Sycamores picked the same year to perform almost as well as a certain Wichita State team which is currently ranked second in the nation and is the only undefeated program in college basketball at a staggering 30-0.
Playing second fiddle to an undefeated squad probably means the Sycamores are being under-valued, particularly since they are also coming off a 77-66 road loss at Missouri State over the weekend. The defeat snapped a four-game win streak, but still the program is an impressive 9-5 in true road tests in 2013-14.
As for the Redbirds, a team which is 11-3 at home, they too are coming off a loss over the weekend, having gone down against Northern Iowa on the road by a score of 72-59. The setback snapped a brief two-game win streak for the program and evened its league mark at 8-8.
In terms of the all-time series, Illinois State holds a 59-51 advantage, although the Sycamores won the first meeting of the season at home last month, 76-62.
Against Missouri State at JQH Arena in Springfield, Indiana State got off just 47 field goal attempts and knocked down only 17, which was only two more than the team had turnovers in the double-digit loss. Jake Odum tallied 14 points, thanks to his 8-of-10 showing at the free-throw line, while Dawon Cummings pitched in with 12 points, although the latter converted a mere 1-of-7 behind the 3-point line, the team hitting 5-of-24 out on the perimeter in the losing cause. Were it not for a 27-of-31 effort at the charity stripe, the Sycamores would not have even been that close.
In conference games, the Sycamores have been relying heavily on their defensive pressure, limiting opponents to just 64.3 ppg, but obviously Missouri State played above and beyond those expectations. Odum, one of only two players to have started every league bout, checks in with 12.7 ppg and is first with 69 assists, which makes it slightly easier to overlook his mere 8- of-32 shooting behind the 3-point line, Khristian Smith adds 12.1 ppg and 5.7 rpg to the cause, followed by Cummings with 10.5 ppg.
Over at the McLeod Center, Illinois State fell behind immediately against Northern Iowa and never recovered, trailing by as many as 17 in the first half, before falling by 13 once the smoke cleared. The starting five combined to shoot only 11-of-31 from the field, with Reggie Lynch serving as the lone double-digit scorer with 10 points, to go along with seven rebounds. Off the bench, Zach Lofton erupted for a game-high 24 points, hitting not only 8-of-16 shots from the field, but also 4-of-7 out on the perimeter, the rest of the unit going 3-of-14 from the outside.
Running with a smaller lineup much of the time, the Redbirds try to spread out the scoring responsibilities, which is why there are just two players putting up double figures, on the average, in conference play this season. Daishon Knight heads the list with his 11.9 ppg, but he is shooting only 35.5 percent from the floor and 29.6 percent behind the 3-point line. Hunter (11.5 ppg), who leads the squad with 48 assists and 29 steals in those outings, is also second on the unit with 4.7 rpg.
With Wichita State having already taken the regular-season title in the MVC, the Sycamores are now playing for pride more than anything, and that should be more than enough to get them over the hump tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Indiana State 71, Illinois State 60
02/26 10:38:20 ET