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Benches Clear in Second Return to Horton, ‘Birds Come Up Short Late

Written by on December 10, 2023

Image courtesy of Redbird Athletics

A loud atmosphere is what fans can expect anytime a contest takes place at the Horton Field House, and the 2023 iteration of the “Return to Horton” game was no exception. In a tough battle, the Illinois State men’s basketball team fell to Norfolk State Spartans, 64-58.

There were 3,788 fans in attendance to watch this hard-fought contest in the historic arena. The most notable moment of the night came with eight minutes remaining in the game. Spartans’ Jamarri Thomas and a Redbird fan seemed to exchange words,  before getting into an argument with the referee which caused Norfolk State Head Coach Robert Jones to walk onto the court.

This caused ISU Head Coach Ryan Pedon to go face-to-face with Jones. The benches cleared and chaos ensued in Horton as the refs got between the coaches. When asked about the incident, Pedon explained how he believed this was all caused by a misunderstanding.

“It was probably a misunderstanding,” Pedon said. “It was just two coaches being passionate about their teams and the game. I don’t know him so I don’t pass any judgment past him. I was upset that he was on the floor. But, it was never personal with him. I’ll just leave it on that and take the high road. I’m a competitor and i’m Italian. So sometimes my emotions can get the best of me. I won’t apologize for my competitive edge. That’s how I want my team to play.”

There was a total of 46 personal fouls and three technicals in this game highly physical game. With fifty seconds left in the game, Freshman guard Johnny Kinziger hit an and-one three-pointer to bring the score to 55-58. Thomas would quickly hit a jump shot after that for the Spartans to give them a five-point lead. Then, with seventeen seconds on the clock, Kinziger hit another three, this time contested, to make the game a two-point contest.

Thomas would then go down the court and hit two free throws which would end up being the dagger. Despite the unfortunate ending, the Freshman guard proved that he was a player that Pedon could rely on in the clutch. When asked about the ending, Kinziger credited his teams for why he was so confident.

“All these guys on the team have confidence in me which helps me get confidence in myself,” Kinziger said. “It’s all of them who set me up. I’m just out there shooting. With the confidence they give me, it helps me step up for those big shots.”

Kinziger led the way for the Redbirds as he scored 13 points on 4-7 shots from the three-point line. In total, the ‘Birds went 5-27 from the three-point line. Myles Foster was able to record a double-double as he scored eleven points and brought in ten rebounds.

It was the Thomas show for the Spartans as he scored 31 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals. He also went 15-17 from the free-throw line. Allen Bertrand was the team’s next-highest scorer as he recorded 12 points on 4-10 shooting from the field.