Redbird defense impresses in win over Morehead State

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Tommy Olsson

The Redbirds defensive performance led to the team’s 61-50 over Morehead State.

The Illinois State defense (4-6) posted their best performance of the year, forcing 16 turnovers and pulled down 31 defensive rebounds in a 61-50 win over non-conference opponent Morehead State (5-5) on December 7.

The ‘birds closed the game out strong, giving up 26 points and holding the Eagles to 32% from the field in the second half. “It’s no secret that we’ve struggled in the second-half guarding,” forward Keith Fisher said. “We did a really good job focusing on that and doing our job… each individual.”

The Redbird offense struggled, hitting just 2 of their first 14 shots to open the second half, but the defense stepped up and lifted them to a win.

“That [defense] was one of our points of emphasis,” guard Zach Copeland said, “just get stop after stop after stop.”

Freshman guard DJ Horne, who began the season as Ricky Torres’ backup, scored a career-high 14 points in his second game as a starter and was one of three ISU players in double digits. It is also his third straight game scoring double digits.

“He earned the starting spot because of his defensive ability,” head coach Dan Muller said. “But then you get the offensive output also, he’s such a good finisher, he can shoot the pull-up, and he can score from three, so he’s a dangerous player.”

Illinois State’s starting five have struggled against big men on offense, from 7’1’’ Chris Vogt of Cincinnati to 6’11’’ Collin Smith of Central Florida. However, size didn’t seem to affect Keith Fisher, who finished with 10 points. “Regardless of size and athleticism and all that,” Fisher said, “you just got to go out there and play.”

For the Redbirds, a game where they never trailed undoubtedly meant a lot in ending what Copeland, who led the team with 16 points, referred to as a “little losing streak.”

With Illinois State earning a much-needed win, players get a one week break from games in preparation for exams. “It gives guys time to work on their weight, and work on their game,” Fisher said, “and the team time to fix things that we need to fix.”

The Redbirds look to move to .500  in their next two matchups against University Illinois-Chicago and University of Texas at San Antonio.