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Redbirds collect first Valley win against SIU

Illinois State used a 17-2 second half run to pull away late and defeat Southern Illinois 66-48.

NORMAL - Illinois State used a 17-2 second half run to pull away late and defeat Southern Illinois, 66-48, Sunday afternoon at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds have now won five-consecutive games at Redbird Arena, their longest home winning streak since since securing six-straight home wins during the 2011-2012 season.

The Redbirds had their best defensive effort of the season, limiting Southern Illinois to just 32-percent shooting, including just 25-percent shooting (5-of-25) in the second half. Illinois State shot 42-percent from the floor and out-scored SIU 28-17 in the second half.

Two Redbirds registered double-figure scoring, paced by Zach Lofton's game-high 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Lofton added four three-point baskets and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. Bobby Hunter tallied 15 points, his seventh double-figure scoring effort over his last eight games. Paris Lee notched a career-high seven assists and the Redbirds had 16 assists on 21 baskets.  Illinois State won the rebounding advantage, 37-35, and Lee had a game-best seven boards. 

Southern Illinois opened the game on a 9-0 run, as Marcus Fillyaw and Desmar Jackson each tallied three-point baskets and a Sean O'Brien added a three-point foul play. Nick Zeisloft's three-point basket with 17:20 put Illinois State on the board and, after a SIU basket, Daishon Knight added a three to cut the deficit to 11-6 heading into the first media timeout.

Illinois State rallied for a 6-0 run out of the break, taking its first advantage of the game, 12-11, on a John Jones bucket. Following a Southern basket, Hunter hit his first three and Kaza Keane weaved through the lane for a layup sparking a 9-2 run that build the Illinois State advantage to 21-15 midway through the opening half.

Facing a 26-19 deficit with 8:11 to play in the opening half, Southern Illinois went on an 8-2 swing to cut the Redbird advantage to 28-27. With the Salukis attempting to reclaim the lead, Lofton stole the ball from a cutting Jackson and went the length of the court for a layup, snapping the Southern Illinois run and extending the Redbird lead to 30-27 with three minutes to play in the first half. Jackson followed with a two-handed dunk, but on Illinois State's next possession, the Redbirds tallied a pair of offensive rebounds leading to a Jones hook shot.  Following a stop, Lofton drilled a three from the top of the key, giving Illinois State a six-point advantage, 35-29, with one minute left in the half.

With 0.4 seconds left in the opening half, the Salukis fouled Hunter from beyond the three-point arc. The Redbird guard netted all three free-throws, to put Illinois State on top, 38-31 at halftime. 

Both teams opened the second half cold from the floor, with Southern netting just one free-throw and 0-for-2 field goal shooting over the first three minutes of the half. The Redbirds missed their first four shots from the floor before committing a pair of turnovers, leading to five Salukis points. Hunter stopped the run with a three-point basket from the top of the key, extending the Illinois State advantage, 41-36, with 15:59 to play in regulation.

After Southern Illinois cut the deficit to three, Lofton drilled a three-pointer from in front of the Illinois State bench to double the advantage to six, 44-38, with 14:20 to go. Illinois State extended its advantage with a trio of defensive stops and four-consecutive points from Hunter, building a 48-38 lead with 12 minutes on the clock.

Tony Wills' layup with 9:33 snapped a four-minute drought in which Illinois State did not make a field goal. He was fouled on the play and made the layup, giving Illinois State a 51-40 lead with 9 minutes left. Lofton added a three-point basket and Lynch finished a three-point foul play, adding to Illinois State's 17-2 run, and giving Illinois State a 58-40 lead. The Salukis did not score for a 3-minute stretch, before Jackson's 10-foot jumper with 6 minutes to go in relation snapped the Redbird run.     

Lofton's fading three-point basket extended the Illinois State lead to 63-45 late in regulation, and the Illinois State defense did not relent, setting up Illinois State's 66-48 win.

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