Redbirds Rally Again to Defeat Missouri State in MVC Opener
Written by Brendan McInerney on December 2, 2021
Photo courtesy goredbirds.com
NORMAL, Ill. – The Illinois State men’s basketball team has crafted a knack for overcoming big deficits this season.
They did exactly that Wednesday night, as the Redbirds rallied from nine down with 4:14 to play in the game to force overtime and then out-score Missouri State 15-10 in extra time to go to 1-0 in the MVC behind a 75-70 win.
Junior guard Antonio Reeves finished the game with 22 points after scoring just seven and being held 1-for-5 in the opening half. Reeves once again displayed his unique alpha-like scoring ability down the stretch as he netted the first seven points for the Redbirds in overtime.
“I let the game come to me. They were face guarding me at first,” said Reeves. “But I trust my teammates to make plays and stay in the flow of the game, and I stayed in the flow as well.”
With the win, ISU’s record improved to 4-4 after ending a five-game losing streak to Missouri State who is led by head coach Dana Ford, a former ISU player, and associate head coach.
“I’m not going to say we’re an overtime team, but we definitely have some experience,” said Josiah Strong, whose clutch 3-pointer with 38 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. “We know we have weapons all over the floor, on the bench, and starting five. We trust each other and are starting to build that bond.”
Strong scored a season-high 21 points for the Redbirds. Sy Chatman had 10 points and three blocks and Mark Freeman contributed with 10 points.
Although the offense has been the focal point of ISU’s early success, it was the defense that kept the Redbirds in the game Wednesday night as they held a Bears team that was averaging 81.5 points per game, to 64 points in regulation. Head coach Dan Muller was not afraid to mix up his team’s defensive looks, relying on both a man-to-man and zone defense.
It was the earliest MVC opening day in history, but the physicality and intensity of a classic Valley matchup certainly weren’t missing. Both teams turned the ball over 16 times and shot 45.6 percent.
“The first home conference game we appreciate the fans coming out. They showed out big time for us,” said Strong. “I would say that helped us get over the humpback when we down by nine. Their energy was big time, especially going into overtime. We fed off it.”
Missouri State built its lead up to seven or more at four different times throughout the game but ISU always climbed back in. The Bears’ largest lead was 10 with 3:17 left in the first half.
Gaige Prim scored a game-high 27 points for the visitors, making 13-of-15 shots from the field, while Isiaih Mosley scored 12 and Lu’cye Patterson 10.
The Redbirds return to action on Saturday to resume their nonconference slate as the squad hosts Jackson State in a 3 p.m. tip-off at Redbird Arena.