(MCT) — NORMAL — Growing up in Tony Brown’s house in Owensboro, Ky., left little choice what team to cheer for.
“I was a Louisville fan all the way,” said Tyler Brown. “My dad was a Louisville fan, so in the household it was always Louisville. Anytime they met (Kentucky) it was just crazy in the house.”
The youngest of Tony and Jacqui Brown’s three children gets the chance of a lifetime Saturday, although he’s trying to treat it as just another game.
Good luck with that.
Tyler Brown, coming off a career-high 36-point outing, and his Illinois State basketball teammates could face their toughest task this season. The Redbirds take on No. 5-ranked Louisville in a noon (CST) game in the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville.
Owensboro is about a 90-minute drive from Louisville. There doesn’t figure to be many Redbird fans in the near-sellout crowd, but Tyler Brown should have his own rooting section.
“It means a lot of people will be there, family and friends,” said Brown, a 6-foot-4 senior guard who leads ISU with an 18.8 scoring average. “From a game aspect, it’s our next game so it’s our biggest game. Nothing really changes as far as being another basketball game we’re looking forward to win.”
Both teams come in with 5-1 records and are coming off losses in tournament finals last Saturday.
Northwestern slipped past ISU, 72-69, in the South Padre Island Invitational despite Brown’s heroic effort in which he sank seven 3-pointers, including one with 10 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Meanwhile, Duke handed Louisville a 76-71 defeat for the Battle 4 Atlantis crown in the Bahamas in an early-season showdown among top-10 ranked teams.
With six games to start the season in a 13-day span, ISU didn’t have much time during practices other than to prepare specifically for the next opponent.
A week off before meeting Louisville has allowed Redbird coach Dan Muller and his staff time to get back in the gym and work on their team before focusing on the Cardinals.
“We had some offensive things we needed to get corrected,” said Muller before Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve improved the last two days, but we still have some work to do with that. Rebounding has been an issue for us along with taking care of the ball.”
ISU was outrebounded by Alabama-Birmingham (46-40) and Northwestern (42-39) at South Padre Island. The Redbirds also committed 38 turnovers in the two games.
Muller pointed out that in the second half against Northwestern his team turned the ball over on nine of 12 possessions during one stretch.
“We just had a lot of unforced turnovers. We got careless and lost our discipline,” said Muller. “Also offensively there was a lack of movement. We had a lot of guys staring at the ball. That happens without practice time. It’s not our players’ fault. We’re really working hard at that.”
Two for 30: ISU was the first team in the country to have two different players score 30 or more points in a game this season.
Bryant Allen netted a career-high 30 points in a 77-65 victory over UAB last Friday before Brown erupted against Northwestern. Brown’s 36 points were the fourth-highest output in the nation this season and most by an ISU player since Dec. 3, 2000, when Tarise Bryson scored 41 against Central Michigan.
“That’s big for us. It means more players other teams have to worry about,” said ISU forward Jackie Carmichael. “We need that a lot more from Tyler and B.A. The more they do that and hit those shots it’s hard for teams to guard us.”
Check, please: ISU will receive $90,000 in exchange for providing the opposition for Louisville. This is the first so-called guarantee game, where there is no return contest, the Redbirds have played on the road since Jan. 3, 2004, when they lost to Illinois in overtime, 80-73, in Champaign.
Muller said scheduling future road guarantee games will depend on what the rest of the schedule looks like in each particular season.
“I’ll be doing it more years than not, likely,” he said.