NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State men’s basketball team used a 16-2 run midway through the first half and never trailed again in a 77-67 win over Morehead State on Wednesday night at Redbird Arena. The contest marked the opening round of the College Basketball Invitational.
The Redbirds, who finished 9-9 in Missouri Valley Conference action, improve to 17-15 overall and 13-3 at home. The Eagles, who finished 10-6 in Ohio Valley Conference play, end their season 20-14 overall and 9-7 on the road. ISU also improves to 6-1 all-time against MSU.
Illinois State is making its fifth postseason appearance in the last seven years and 19th overall. The Redbirds are playing in their first CBI. Morehead State enjoyed its fourth postseason berth in the past six seasons and ninth overall. The Eagles played in their second CBI.
“Give Illinois State credit,” Head Coach Sean Woods said. “They are a good basketball team and play even better at home. I’m proud of our players for everything they’ve accomplished this season. We squeezed as much juice out of the turnip as we could tonight.”
Illinois State tallied a 16-point advantage from the foul line on the way to its 12th home win in 13 tries. The Redbirds canned 73 percent (29-of-40), while the Eagles converted on just 62 percent (13-of-21).
Junior Daishon Knight paced four ISU players in double figures with 18 points. Junior Bobby Hunter added 16, while sophomore Nick Zeisloft chipped in with 13 and freshman Reggie Lynch had 12.
Junior Kareem Storey led three MSU individuals in double figures with 19 points, all of which came in the second half. Junior Angelo Warner posted 14, while sophomore Brent Arrington contributed 13.
Morehead State registered a 40-37 rebounding advantage, including 15-12 on the offensive end. The Eagles, who begin the day sixth nationally in rebounding margin and tied for 27th in total boards, close out the campaign being outrebounded just twice in 34 contests.
Junior Billy Reader pulled down a game-high nine rebounds in just 17 minutes for the Eagles, while Storey added a game-best five assists and drained all three attempts from three-point land. Warner recorded six rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocked shots.
“We don’t like to make excuses, but the fact of the matter is our bench got very thin towards the end of the season,” Woods said. “We only had 10 players available tonight due to the injuries we’ve had, and our role players were forced to step up and play major minutes.”
Drew Kelly and Chad Posthumus were playing in their final collegiate games. Kelly wrapped up his MSU career with 1,013 points (8.2 pg) and 522 rebounds (4.2 pg) in 123 contests, while Posthumus finished with 574 points (8.6 pg) and 595 rebounds (8.9 pg) in 67 tilts.
“I will miss (outgoing seniors) Drew (Kelly) and Chad (Posthumus), but the future remains very bright for this program,” Woods added. “We have a very solid group of players coming back in 2014-15 and will add three Division I transfers who had to sit out this season.”
The 16-team CBI is one of four national postseason tournaments. Its quarterfinal round is slated for Monday, while the semifinal round is set for next Wednesday. The best-of-three championship series begins on March 31. All games are being played at campus sites.