Illinois State (2-4) at San Francisco (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 11:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Gymnasium (5,300) -- San Francisco, California. Television: None. Home Record: ISU 0-2, USF 4-2. Away Record: ISU 1-1, USF 1-1. Neutral Record: ISU 1-1, USF 0-0. Conference Record: ISU 0-0, USF 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Illinois State Redbirds and the San Francisco Dons face off at War Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday night, as the Golden Gate Challenge comes to a close.
USF has opened its own tournament with back-to-back wins, taking down Sonoma State on Wednesday (96-73) prior to defeating Vermont on Friday night (72-61). The Dons are now 5-3 on the season and improved to 4-2 on their home floor.
Illinois State managed to get healthy against Division II Sonoma State on Friday night, as it easily won, 75-58. It was a much-welcomed victory for the Redbirds, who are just 2-4 on the season.
This event has brought these two programs together for the very first time.
The Redbirds nearly lost control of their contest early in the second half when Sonoma State brought its deficit to just one point, but they caught fire in the second half an eventually cruised to the 17-point victory. The difference in the game came from beyond the arc, where the Redbirds were outstanding at 10-of-21, while Sonoma State made just 3-of-12 long-range tries. Daishon Knight poured in 21 points, while Zach Lofton came off the bench to net 19. The duo was active from 3-point range, combining to shoot 6- of-8, and Lofton pitched in an 8-of-8 showing from the foul line. Unfortunately for Illinois State, it hasn't performed very well at the offensive end of the floor this season, connecting on just 39.1 percent of its field goal tries for 69.5 points per game, 7.5 points less than it allows. Lofton leads the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game, but his awful field goal percentage (.324) has been a detriment to the team. Knight (13.8 ppg) is also off to a poor shooting start (.391).
Although USF trailed Vermont late in the first half, it closed out the stanza on a 10-2 run to take a 30-26 advantage into intermission, and it never surrendered that lead after the break. The team shot an impressive 51 percent from the field, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range, and it won both the rebounding (34-27) and the turnover (15-13) battles. Cole Dickerson had a season-high scoring effort for the second consecutive game, netting 28 points on 10-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-4 from long distance. Avry Holmes and Kruize Pinkins were both solid with 13 points apiece. The Dons have gotten used to high-scoring affairs this season, as they shoot a lofty 49 percent from the field for 86.4 points per game, which helps mask poor play at the defensive end (.489, 79.0 ppg). Dickerson (15.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is the catalyst, but he's just one of five players to average in double figures, as Pinkins, Holmes, Matt Glover and Mark Tollefsen all tally between 10.3 and 14.4 points per game.
Illinois State's recent win against a Division II foe not withstanding, it hasn't impressed much this season, and with USF playing well on its home floor, it should be able to close out the tournament in style.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Francisco 87, Illinois State 76
11/30 10:35:44 ET