NORMAL, Ill. – Illinois State (17-7, 9-4 MVC) had a hot hand in the second half to top arch-rival Bradley (14-11, 7-6 MVC), 72-68, and earn a split in the I-74 Rivalry in front of a sold out crowd of 10,200 at Doug Collins Court in Redbird Arena on Saturday, Feb. 9. The Redbirds shot a blistering 62.5 percent from the field (15-for-24) in the second half to snap a six-game losing streak to Bradley and remain in sole possession of second place in the Missouri Valley Conference. Sophomore guard Osiris Eldridge scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Redbirds.
Eldridge made four three-pointers in the game, giving him 102 triples in his career. Sophomore forward Dinma Odiakosa had 13 points, a team-best nine rebounds and three blocks. Senior forward Anthony Slack scored 14 points on a perfect 6-for-6 performance from the field and surpassed 500 points for his career. Senior guard Dom Johnson tied his career-high with eight assists and had seven rebounds.
Bradley was led by forward Theron Wilson and guard Jeremy Crouch, who each scored 17 points, and guard Daniel Ruffin added 16 points and five assists. Center Matt Salley pulled down seven boards for the Braves.
A pair of momentum-changing runs highlighted the opening four minutes of the game. Bradley scored on three of its first four possessions to take a 7-0 lead, with Wilson, guard Andrew Warren and Crouch providing the field goals. But the Redbirds fought back with a 9-0 flurry to take a 9-7 lead. Eldridge started the spree with back-to-back field goals. At the first media timeout (15:23), ISU owned an 11-9 advantage.
The Braves answered with an 8-0 run out of the break, and forced the Redbirds into their first timeout trailing 17-11. Warren scored on a putback following two-consecutive offensive rebounds, while Ruffin and Wilson added three-pointers. Bradley continued its torrid shooting, building two double-digit leads in the ensuing five and a half minutes. Between the 11:49 and 7:49 marks, the Braves went on a 10-6 spree to take a 27-17 lead at the half’s third media timeout. BU’s Matt Salley had four points in the stretch.
The Redbirds called their second timeout with 5:18 remaining after Bradley completed a quick 4-0 spurt, and claimed a 31-19 lead. Eldridge and Johnson tallied back-to-back three-point field goals coming out of the timeout, and closed the gap to six, 31-25, with 3:47 remaining. ISU finished the stanza on a 6-2 spurt, including four points by Emmanuel Holloway, to pull within 33-31 heading into the locker room at halftime.
Slack single-handedly gave ISU the early advantage in the second half’s opening stages, going a perfect 3-for-3 from the field over the first 2:04 of the frame. He connected on two turnaround jumpers in the paint, and brought the crowd to its feet after a thundering transition dunk following senior guard Boo Richardson’s second-consecutive steal. But Slack was forced to exit the game just XXXX later, re-aggravating his sore right shoulder that he injured at Bradley on Jan. 23.
At the ensuing timeout (15:40), the Redbirds led by six, 41-35, their largest lead of the game. The Redbirds’ lead was stretched to eight points, 48-40, at the half’s second media timeout (11:59). Eldridge tallied his third three-pointer of the game in the stretch, while Odiakosa and junior forward Brandon Sampay added field goals in the post.
Bradley trimmed the ISU lead to 57-52 with 5:31 remaining after a three-pointer by Ruffin, his first field goal of the second half. The Braves then called timeout, but the Redbirds scored four of the ensuing seven points, and held a 61-55 lead at the final media timeout of the game (3:45). Slack hit two free throws, and Odiakosa had a dunk off an entry pass from Johnson to provide the scoring in the spurt.
Bradley kept the pressure on and eventually cut the Redbird lead to 66-64 with 1:48 remaining, capping off a 6-1 run. Wilson had four points in the run. Bradley stayed within a basket until Eldridge nailed a jumper from the top of the key with 21 seconds left to make the score Two free throws by Ruffin cut the lead down to three points, 71-68, with eight tick remaining, but Richardson added a free throw on the ensuing possession to ice the game.
Courtesy ISU Sports Information