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Redbirds Come Up Short In OT Loss To Drake

Written by on January 27, 2022

NORMAL, Ill. – After coming off their most disappointing loss of the season against lowly Evansville, the Illinois State men’s basketball kicked off their toughest stretch of conference games Wednesday night when they hosted Drake at Redbird Arena.

Two road matchups against Loyola-Chicago and Northern Iowa, a pair of MVC contenders, were up next for the Redbirds. To make matters worse, it was announced earlier this week that starting forward Sy Chatman would be out for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL at Evansville.

Despite this, the Redbirds put together a very solid performance in a heartbreaking 89-88 overtime loss to the Bulldogs. Head coach Dan Muller was proud of the way his team competed.

“Couldn’t be more proud of our group,“ said Muller. “We had one day of practice and guys were out there competing while playing heavy minutes.”

In a game that produced 23 lead changes and 22 ties, it’s no surprise that the contest came down to the very last possession in overtime.

Antonio Reeves pulled up for a mid-range jump shot with nine seconds left but it was ruled out of bounds after hitting the top of the backboard. After gaining possession, Drake guard Tucker DeVries missed the front end of a bonus and ISU quickly pushed the ball down court on a fast break.

Kendall Lewis received the ball in good position under the basket but his shot came up short after receiving a lot of contact.

“I’m not criticizing the officials because it’s a very hard game to call. It really is,” said Muller. “But if you watch the replays and you see a hand wrapped around Kendall Lewis’ arms as he’s shooting that last shot, you can literally see fingers around his arm. That’s tough. It would have been two free throws with a chance to win. But that’s a tough call. The refs did an awesome job tonight.”

Reeves led all scorers with a game-high 25 points for the Redbirds. In his first ever start, Liam McChesney scored a career-high 14 points while filling in for the injured Chatman. Lewis put together another double-double as he added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Mark Freeman had a season-high 10 assists.

It will be a tough task for the Redbirds to replicate the production of Chatman moving forward. He was the second-leading scorer and rebounder.

“Sy is our brother. It’s unfortunate what happened. He’ll have a speedy recovery. We still have to finish out the season,” said ISU guard Josiah Strong. “We know with him we’re at our best. But we’re still a good team and have to find our best without him. Guys have to step up and Liam did that today, for sure.”

With the loss, the Redbirds now sit at 10-11overall (3-5 in MVC). The win improves Drake’s record to 15-6 (6-2 in MVC), and puts the Bulldogs in sole possession of 2nd place in the Valley.

Up next, ISU will travel to Cedars Falls, Iowa to face UNI at 1 p.m. Saturday.