‘Birds fall short against UCF

Redbirds+approach+their+10th+game+of+the+2019-2020+season.+

Redbirds approach their 10th game of the 2019-2020 season.

The Illinois State University mens basketball team lost 67-65 to the University of Central Florida on November 17. After beginning the season 2-0, this was the first loss for the Illinois State men’s basketball squad despite managing over 50 points from players off the bench and holding an 8-10 point lead for the majority of the first half.

The Knights saw a resurgence in their play in a rapid second-half comeback shaving ISU’s lead to 6 in the final ten minutes. 

Last year the Knights’ season ended a point shy of upsetting number one seeded Duke in the second round of last year’s March Madness tournament. This year, the Knights (1-1) have continued to see close battles finding themselves trailing in the second half in each of their games. 

“I don’t think we lack the will to fight,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. Dawkins believes his team has the will to come back and give themselves an opportunity to win each game. 

The Redbird starting five shot 6 for 28 combined. With that performance, Head Coach Dan Muller said,  “when you still have a chance to win, I think that’s a pretty good testament to your bench.”

Leading off the bench was sophomore Dedric Boyd, scoring 22 of Illinois State’s 65 points. Less than five minutes into the game, it was a Boyd three-pointer that gave Illinois State their first lead over UCF. That lead was then extended to 11 with a score of 35-24 at the end of the first half. 

 58 of UCF’s 67 points came from just four players, three of which weren’t starters. Starting forward Collin Smith scored led the team with 18 points, and guard Brandon Mahon followed with 17 off the bench. Mahon played a large role in securing the win for the Knights with 2 layups in the last three minutes of the game.  The first of the two lowered ISU’s 6 point lead, and the second served as the game-winning go-ahead layup.

Returning from a hand injury for Illinois State was guard Matt Chastain, who came off of the bench to play the majority of the second half. 

“This was the first week where he shot the ball without [a] cast on,” ISU head coach Dan Muller, “and he made a lot of good plays.” 

Chastain contributed to the Redbird’s rebound battle by pulling down 6 offensive rebounds in addition to a stat line of 12 points, 2 blocks, 4 assists, and 3 steals. 

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming in,” Chastain said, “I just told coach I’d be ready for however much he needed me.”

The Knights forced 18 total turnovers, while the Redbirds forced 17. However, Illinois State scored 7 more points off their turnovers. 

“[The] bottom line is we’re going to play another really good team,” said Muller, “so we’re really being tested early.”

Illinois State was tested in their following game with one-point being the difference in their 66-65 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats on November 22. 

With a 3-5 record, the Redbirds take on Morehead State at home Saturday at 7 p.m.