NORMAL - Playing against its second top-25 ranked team of the season, Illinois State led for the majority of the game over No. 25 Dayton and shot 50 percent from the field on its way to an 81-75 win for the Redbirds (5-4) over the nationally-ranked Flyers (7-2) Saturday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
The victory was the first for the Redbirds over a nationally-ranked opponent since Feb. 9, 2013, when ISU defeated No. 16 Creighton 75-72, and was the first win over a ranked opponent inside Redbird Arena. Daishon Knight led four Redbird players in double figures with 20 points, just one point shy of his career high, and added six rebounds and four assists in the victory for ISU. Bobby Hunter added 16 points, Zach Lofton chipped in 13 points and Reggie Lynch added 10 points and six rebounds for the Redbirds.
Illinois State got off to a flying start, as the Redbirds took an early 4-0 lead in the first thirty seconds of the game. Knight connected on a jumper on the team's first possession after winning the opening tipoff and Hunter stole the ensuing inbounds pass and scored on a layup to put the `Birds up early. Dayton would later trim the Illinois State lead to 10-8, before a layup by Knight and a three-pointer by Lofton extended the lead out to seven points at 15-8.
Dayton fought back and cut the deficit back to two points at 16-14, after a jumper by Scoochie Smith with 11:24 left in the first half. The Redbirds answered with a quick 5-0 run to make the score 21-14 a minute later. The Flyers once again came back and trimmed the Redbird lead to three points at 21-18, before ISU answered with an 8-2 run, kicked off by a three-pointer from the top of the key from Jamaal Samuel, that widened the lead to nine points at 29-20 with just over six minutes left in the half.
The two teams kept firing and traded baskets over the next three minutes, as the Redbirds maintained an eight-point lead at 37-29 after a three-pointer from the corner by Paris Lee. A jumper by Knight a minute later gave ISU its largest lead of the half at 39-29, before Vee Sanford hit a three-pointer from the corner to cut the lead back to seven points at 39-32 at halftime.
The second half started with each team trading baskets through the first four minutes, with ISU leading 45-38 at the first media time out at the 15:08 mark after Lynch scored on a layup. Dayton answered with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to one point at 45-44 after a three-pointer by Khari Price, but Kaza Keene answered on the other end of the floor to widen the lead back out to 48-44.
Dayton's three-point barrage continued, as back-to-back treys from Jordan Sibert and Sanford gave the Flyers their first lead of the game at 50-48 with 12:43 left. ISU quickly answered with a jumper by Lofton to tie the game for the first time, and a three-pointer from Nick Zeisloft gave the Redbirds the lead back at 53-50. ISU added three more points to make it 56-50, before Devin Oliver converted on a three-point play after being fouled by Lynch to cut the lead to three points at 56-53.
Dayton came back to cut the lead back to one point at 56-55 after a layup by Smith, but Illinois State answered with an 13-2 run, highlighted by a three-pointer from Zeisloft, to grow the lead to 69-57 with 6:04 left in the game. ISU extended the lead out to its largest of the game at 74-59, after Knight connected on a pair of free throws with 3:55 left in the contest. The Flyers used an 8-0 run to trim the lead back to single digits and eventually cut the lead to six points at 77-71 after a layup by Kyle Davis, but the Redbirds broke the Flyers' press and Zeisloft scored on a wide-open layup to extend the lead back to eight at 79-71.
Dayton attempted to trim the lead, but Illinois State held on for the 81-75 win over the Flyers. Illinois State will return to action Monday, Dec. 16, at Oakland for a 6 p.m. tipoff.