Illinois State’s Tyler Brown and John Wilkins combined to score 28 of the Redbirds’ 45 second-half points, but it was Nic Moore’s eight points down the stretch that proved the difference in ISU’s 76-70 win over Rutgers in the 2011 Cancun Challenge at the Galactic Ballroom in the Moon Palace Resort Tuesday night.
With the victory, the Redbirds posted their third-straight victory over a BIG EAST opponent and improved to 3-1 on the season. Illinois State will now play the winner of the Illinois-Richmond game which tipped off at 8:35 p.m. CT. The championship game will take place Wednesday at 8:35 p.m. CT, and will also be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Wilkins paced the Redbirds with a career-high 21 points and he also added 10 rebounds for his first career double-double, while Brown matched his career- best with 19. Moore also finished in double figures with 11 points and Jon Ekey added 10.
In the early going, the Redbirds played with a lot of intensity forcing Rutgers into five early team fouls in the game’s first four minutes, but ISU was not able to fully capitalize. Illinois State never trailed in the first half and led by as many as six points, 24-18, at the 6:23 mark, but the Redbirds only shot 32.1 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and held a slight 31-30 edge at halftime.
Illinois State maintained its intensity from the first half and combined some hot shooting to open the second half with an 8-2 run, including five points by Brown. The Redbirds continued the hot hand and built the lead to 13 points, at 53-40, on an 11-2 run with 12:48 left in the game. During the second half, ISU shot 71.4 percent from the floor, making up for its 32.1 percent performance in the first half, its lowest of the season.
The Redbirds held a double-digit lead until Rutgers ran off eight-straight points and closed the gap, 60-58, with 6:08 left. ISU responded with a small 4-0 run, but the Scarlet Knights scored five-straight points and the Redbirds led 64-63 with 4:12 on the clock.
Rutgers took its first lead on a three-point basket by Dane Miller, 66-65, but the Redbirds went on a 7-0 run spurred by a three-point basket by Moore. ISU sank 3-of-5 free throw attempts down the stretch to seal the win.
article courtesy ISU Sports Information