(MCT) — NORMAL – It seemed play would never stop. But when a whistle finally halted the action with 2:39 left, it was time for the Illinois State seniors to hear the applause one final time.
Coach Dan Muller pulled Jackie Carmichael, Tyler Brown, John Wilkins and Anthony Cousin one by one Wednesday night as the Redbird Arena crowd of 5,832 stood and cheered.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” said Carmichael. “I knew it was my last game in Redbird Arena. It was emotional and great to see the fans support the other seniors.”
Brown scored 25 points, while Carmichael added 16 points and 11 rebounds as ISU celebrated Senior Night with a resounding 86-50 rout over Missouri State.
“We wanted to come out, play hard and let the game take care of itself. Obviously, it did,” said Brown, who has been on an offensive tear. “I’m proud of our team and our seniors tonight.”
The Redbirds (17-13, 8-9 MVC) snapped a three-game losing streak, but didn’t get any help from Indiana State as far as next week’s Valley Tournament is concerned. ISU is in sole possession of sixth place in the Valley at 8-9, but the Redbirds might need to win at Northern Iowa in the finale on Saturday night to avoid the play-in round next Thursday.
Drake upset Indiana State on Wednesday. If Drake wins at home against last-place Southern Illinois on Saturday and ISU loses to UNI, the Bulldogs would be the No. 6 seed based on a better non-conference strength of schedule and push the Redbirds into a play-in game.
“We can only worry about what we control,” said Muller. “We know we’re going in and playing a really good team on their Senior Night. We saw what happened with ours. We’ll have to play one of our better games of the year. We’ve just got to go up there, take the challenge and see what happens.”
The Redbirds will be all right if they play like they did Wednesday.
Johnny Hill snapped out of a funk and contributed 15 points after going scoreless the last two games. The Redbirds shot 59.2 percent from the field, including 10 of 20 outside the arc, and backed that up on the other end.
After giving up 79 and 80 points in losses to Evansville and Utah State last week, the Redbirds’ defense made a recovery. ISU held Missouri State (9-21, 6-11) to 37.5 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers against a team leading the Valley with fewest turnovers per game (10.3).
“Missouri State was a little off tonight, and that had something to do with it,” said Muller. “We executed, guarded and contested shots. We weren’t perfect defensively, but we got back to doing the things that have helped us be successful.
“We weren’t broke. We just had some slippage. A couple good days of practice helped with that.”
Missouri State charged out of the locker room after halftime. The Bears made their first four shots and cut ISU’s 18-point halftime lead to 46-34 with 16:54 left.
Carmichael stopped any thoughts of a comeback. He scored on a three-point play and shortly afterwards had two spectacular dunks in a 20-2 run that built the lead to 66-36 with 9:43 left.
The Redbirds kept pouring it on. The lead grew as high as 86-47 with 2:39 left before the seniors took a final bow.
“Illinois State beat us in every possible way tonight,” said Missouri State coach Paul Lusk. “They were terrific tonight and we were not very good.”
Brown didn’t score a point in Springfield, Mo., on Jan. 8 when Missouri State beat the Redbirds, 62-55. He was suspended the next day for conduct detrimental to the team and missed a game. Brown has rediscovered his shooting touch and averaged 24.6 points in the last seven games.
“We need that every single game,” said Carmichael, who produced his 14th double-double of the season and 34th of his career. “He needs to keep doing that, and we’re going to keep feeding him the ball and screening for him. We’re going to ride that train.”
Brown came out firing from the start. He swished a 17-foot jumper and 3-pointer before the game was a minute old to give the Redbirds a lead they never relinquished.
Missouri State trailed 19-13 before a 10-0 run by the Redbirds, capped by a Brown layup and 3-pointer, gave the Redbirds a 29-13 lead. Brown’s steal led to a Cousin layup as ISU gained its biggest lead of the half, 41-23, with 2:12 left before intermission before settling for a 43-25 advantage at the break.
ISU shot 56 percent from the field (14 of 25) in the first half while holding the Bears to 34.5 percent (10 of 29).
Anthony Downing led the Bears with 12 points. Marcus Marshall, who is the top contender for Valley Freshman of the Year, scored eight points.
“They have two great one-on-one players. I thought we did a great job on them and got several of their players in foul trouble,” said Brown. “It was just discipline on the defensive end and the scouting report knowing their personnel.”