ISU secured the No. 5 seed in next week’s Valley Tournament, setting the stage for a No. 4 versus No. 5 matchup between Illinois State and Missouri State this Friday, Mar. 7 at 2:35 p.m. at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Non-conference strength of schedule (NCSS) was utilized to break the three-way tie after ISU, MSU and SIU all split their regular-season meetings. The Redbirds (16-14, 9-9 MVC) earned the league’s fourth-highest NCSS (135), while Missouri State (19-11, 9-9 MVC) ranked No. 3 (126) and Southern Illinois (13-19, 9-9 MVC) was No. 8 (245).
Saturday’s game at SIU was tight throughout, as Illinois State went on a 10-2 run from 16:45 to 15:12 to take a 15-7 lead on a Nick Zeisloft three-pointer. However, the Salukis outscored ISU, 7-2, to pull within two points before building a three-point advantage. Then, with the game tied, Zach Lofton netted a three-pointer to secure the Redbirds’ 36-33 halftime lead.
The first 13 minutes of the second half saw five ties and seven lead changes before Southern Illinois went on a 9-2 run to take a 61-54 advantage on a Smithpeters layup with 5:35 remaining. But ISU answered by outscoring the Salukis, 11-2, to regain a two-point lead on a Zeisloft free throw, pushing ISU’s advantage to 65-63 with 29 seconds to play. Smithpeters’ three-pointer at the 10-second mark lifted SIU back in front by one, and the Salukis held off the Redbirds who could not attempt a final shot.
Daishon Knight led three Redbirds in double-figures with 15 points, five rebounds and two steals as Illinois State shot 45.7 percent from the field compared to Southern Illinois’ 39.6 percent mark. However, the Salukis out-rebounded ISU, 43-21, including 21 offensive boards. Illinois State limited its turnovers to five while scoring 20 points off of SIU miscues.
With the regular season now complete, Illinois State is preparing for its Friday afternoon matchup against Missouri State at the MVC Tournament. The Redbirds split their regular-season series against the Bears. All-session tickets to Arch Madness are available through the Illinois State Athletics Ticket Office by visiting GoRedbirds.com or by calling (309) 438-8000.
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