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ISU looks to improve rebounding

(MCT) — NORMAL — Rebounding from a demoralizing loss four days earlier to Wyoming was critical for Illinois State’s basketball team Saturday night. The Redbirds got some confidence back with an 85-63 victory against Western Michigan.

Now, ISU will literally focus on improving their rebounding.

Western Michigan gained a 41-35 rebounding advantage. It was the fourth time in the last five games that ISU (6-3) was outrebounded and fifth time this season.

“It’s killing me right now not being able to beat teams on rebounding because that’s what I pride myself on, and I know that’s what the team prides itself on,” said Jackie Carmichael, who led ISU with seven boards. “We’re going to get out of that funk.”

Coach Dan Muller can’t put his finger on why the Redbirds are losing the battle of the boards. It’s not from a lack of trying.

“We’re doing rebounding drills every day. I do think in practice we’re getting better at rebounding,” said Muller. “There’s more of a focus with guys, and we go out in games it’s just that carryover I have to do a better job getting them to do it. We’re not carrying over that same block out, go get the ball.

“It’s something we have to focus on because that rebounding can get you beat.”

Wilkins steps up: Senior John Wilkins started the season making eight of his first 29 field goal attempts, including three of 11 outside the arc.

Wilkins has found his shooting stroke the past two games. He went 12 of 21 from the field and four of nine on 3-pointers. Wilkins scored a season-high 16 points against Western Michigan.

“As long as we were winning it didn’t matter,” said Wilkins. “Hopefully my consistent way to shoot is better and my teammates get more confident in me to pass the ball to me.”

10-man rotation?: Muller has said he prefers to use a nine-man rotation in games. Geoffrey Allen may throw some question into those plans.

The sophomore swingman scored six points in eight foul-plagued minutes Saturday. The 6-foot-6 Allen, a transfer from Eastern Washington who sat out last season, sank both of his 3-point attempts and also had two assists.

Muller said part of Allen’s increased playing time was because of foul trouble and also freshman point guard Kaza Keane being limited to 14 minutes as he continues to recover from a sprained ankle.

“I don’t exactly know how that will work. I do know Geoffrey got in, and he did a lot of good things,” said Muller. “There’s a battle for minutes. I have to work the guys who deserve them and give us the best chance to win.”

Week off: ISU is off until next Sunday against Morgan State (3-3) because of final exams this week. The practice schedule also has been altered to accommodate the players’ exam schedules.

The Redbirds had a light workout Sunday before taking today off. Muller said he plans a full practice Tuesday and individual shooting Wednesday. All the players finish their finals on Wednesday, so the team will begin a regular practice routine beginning Thursday.

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