▪ This is Illinois State’s last chance to make a statement. The Redbirds are 0-5 against WSU, Northern Iowa and Indiana State, the top three teams in the MVC.
The Redbirds could easily own home wins over UNI and Indiana State. They lost to the Sycamores 63-61 and the Panthers 54-53. Regardless of the venue, the Redbirds haven’t shot well against the MVC’s other top teams. Their best was 40 percent at UNI and they didn’t top 36 percent in the others.
The Redbirds are deep and aggressive and they foul more than their opponents. That leads to a free throw disparity for the season of 357-353. In the five losses to the top MVC teams, the Redbirds are down 84-69 at the line.
▪ The Redbirds will change defenses often and try to wear down the WSU guards. Illinois State averages 13.2 turnovers, second-most in the MVC and it needs to force turnovers to balance that out. The Shockers turned the ball over nine times in the first meeting, a 70-62 win, and can’t afford too many more tonight.
▪ It is Tekele Cotton’s last appearance in Redbird Arena. Can he top this?
▪ Zach Brown will miss his third game due to a concussion. His playing time, like most of the newcomers, varies and it is hard to tell how much the Shockers miss him. Tonight’s game seems like one where he could have been important. He can defend and is athletic enough to match Illinois State’s perimeter players and give the starters some relief.
Brown’s absence likely gives Tevin Glass more opportunity. Neither Corey Henderson nor Ria’n Holland played much in the first meeting and they do not seem like good matchups against Illinois State’s perimeter players.
▪ WSU freshman Shaq Morris scored nine points and blocked threes shots in 10 minutes in the first meeting. That came four days after coach Gregg Marshall left him off the roster for the game at Drake because of poor practices. Morris bounced back against the Redbirds and has been the most effective WSU newcomer since.
He can play some important minutes tonight against Redbirds center Reggie Lynch. Lynch is an excellent shot-block and big enough to pose problems for Darius Carter. Morris played well, at times, on the road. He scored nine points at Evansville and inspired some confidence with his play at UNI before fouls benched him.
▪ From the MVC office: WSU is 45-10 on the road (81.8 percent) the past five seasons. That is a better winning percentage than 287 schools have in home games during that span.