I watched some of that game last night on the U and you could tell things were not going the Redbirds way. First, Illinois State had almost as many turnovers in the first half, 12, as they average in a game all season, 13. Second, Indiana State seemed to be shooting over the heads from beyond the arc. For the game, they shot 14 of 30 (46.7 percent). On the season, the Sycamores are next to last in the Valley in field goal percentage at 39 percent. So to shoot 46 percent from three (they average 34 percent) is the second indicator that it wasn't in the cards for the Redbirds (get it cards, redbirds..ha ha ha). The third indicator that it wasn't Illinois State night, as a friend of mine would say, you never let a lesser team hang around at the end of a game. The Redbirds did just that. Up twelve, 57-45 with 2:38 left, Indiana State nailed FIVE three pointers in that span, the last tied the game with 31 seconds left. Even though they made those three pointers, the Sycamores needed some help from the Redbirds.
Finally, the fourth and final indicator; an indicator that I talk about a lot on this site. Free throw shooting. There was only one way that the Sycamores could hit all those threes in the span of two and half minutes to tie; poor free throw shooting by the Redbirds. Illinois State would miss FIVE free throws in the last three minutes of the game. Just one of those missed free throws goes in, game set and match. Illinois State only made 58 percent from the line for the game (14 of 24).
The kicker was that Illinois State had the ball and the chance to win with 31 seconds left. Enter my favorite play in all of college basketball. Shot clock off, tie game, what do you do? Give the ball to your best player, have him dribble the clock down, then have him run a one on one play with 8 seconds left on the clock. If you read this blog a lot, you know that I hate this play. It is run by a certain CAA member team constantly. It often doesn't work and last night, it didn't work in that case. Osiris Eldridge got the ball, ran down the clock and ran a one on one play shooting a jumper in the corner that bounced off the rim twice as the clock expired. Overtime.
The Redbirds came back from a late five point deficit to tie, only to see Harry Marshall hit a jumper with no time left on the clock to win the game for the Sycamores. Some teams have other teams numbers. In this case, it's the Sycamores who have the Redbirds' number. Indiana State swept the season series from Illinois State having won the previous game on their home court, in you guessed it, overtime. Never keep a lesser team in the game.
So what does this mean? Well, for starters, Creighton is back in the discussion for the Valley conference lead. They are two games back with five games to play. Both Creighton and Northern Iowa have three home games left. The Panthers' schedule is a little more difficult with still a road game left at Illinois State. As for Illinois State, their at large bid hopes were officially ended by losing at home to the Sycamores. With no signature non conference wins, no hope for the regular season conference title, the Redbirds have to win the tournament, plain and simple. As for Northern Iowa and Creighton, their at large bids are slim with actually Creighton with a better chance due to a signature win over Dayton. Safe to say the best bet is to win the conference tournament and don't leave it in the hands of the tourney committee.