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ISU Men’s Basketball falls at MVC Arch Madness Tournament

Written by on March 2, 2023

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – For a third consecutive year the Illinois State Men’s Basketball team’s season was ended by the University of Northern Iowa Panthers with a final score of 75-62.

Aside from a hot start beyond the arc off of back-to-back three-point shots from forward Kendall Lewis and a 16-14 lead for the first eight minutes of game time the Redbirds trailed for the better part of the first and second halves.

Turnovers plagued the ISU offense in the first half, enabling UNI to gain an additional fifteen points off of them and put ISU in a difficult hole to climb out of. ISU Head Coach Ryan Pedon, spoke on how those turnovers led to a large first-half deficit.

“We gifted them fifteen at half, at least half of those were highly preventable,” said Pedon. “I wish I could say that hasn’t been a problem for us this year but it has. That’s on me as a coach. We got to play smarter, we got to play tougher in moments.”

At the end of the first half ISU trailed UNI 44-28 with their chances of continuing their season seeming bleak. Despite the 16-point deficit facing the Redbirds they came out swinging in the second half off of a pair of steals from guard Darius Burford, and brought the ISU deficit to as little as six points. Coach Pedon spoke on the pride he feels for his team’s resilience.

“The one thing about our team that I think hits home with me as a coach is we’re far from perfect and no one is,” said Pedon. “But I never ever question their heart or their spirit. And I think that played itself out in today’s game in a lot of ways. I love the group that I have in the locker room and I love their spirit.”

A three-headed monster led the way offensively for ISU with Darius Burford, Kendall Lewis and Seneca Knight surpassing the double-digit point mark each. After just three points in the first half, Knight exploded in the second with 16 points.

“Seneca is a tremendous young man,” said Pedon. “He responded in the second half and made some real key plays for us as we were coming back.”

While ISU’s season comes to an end, all eyes are forward to the future. ISU Forward, Kendall Lewis, spoke on the team’s culture change with Pedon at the helm of their program.

“I could talk forever about the culture the changes we had,” said Lewis. “He definitely came in with a positive attitude and a positive mindset that’s why we’re rocking with him from the beginning… It’s his first year so it felt like we were all in it together and all learning together. I feel like that’s what really made us connected. I’m ready to rock with Pedon through whatever, I’ll run through a wall for him.”

The culture change for the program has been noticeable outside of the ISU organization as well. UNI Head Coach, Ben Jacobson, gave a tip of the cap to Coach Pedon’s progress with his roster since the last time these two teams faced off in mid-January.

“The offense the defense both of those were better,” said Coach Jacobson. “But then the aspect that matters the most is the edge and the camaraderie… You can feel that he is all about the things that are important. There’s three to five things that really matter, and it appears to me those are the things he’s focused on… I think those two weeks was a really good indication of what Ryan is going to do at Illinois State I think he’s going to be great.”