Illinois State Overwhelms Evansville 78-68
ST. LOUIS – Less than four minutes into the game, Evansville head coach Marty Simmons turned and yelled to his assistants in very plain, simple language exactly what the problem was.
“We just can’t stop them,” Simmons said.
Illinois State showed consistent flashes of superior offensive firepower by eliminating Evansville with a 78-68 victory in the last quarterfinal game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
With all the attention going to Creighton and Northern Iowa, the Redbirds make it very clear they’re not going to be overlooked for a possible back-to-back trip to the MVC Tournament
“If we want to win the championship, we have to play for 120 minutes,” ISU guard Lloyd Phillips said. “We came out and played for 40. Every game will be a war (and tonight) we came ready.”
The Redbirds (23-8) had their best shooting effort in 11 games by hitting 52 percent from the field and an eye-popping 63 percent in the second half.
“I think that’s a testament to Coach Jankovich and his staff of getting up on you and putting pressure on you defensively, Evansville guard Jason Holsinger said. “We didn’t execute well enough tonight to get the win.”
Illinois State used a 15-3 run midway through the second half to go up 59-46 and the Purple Aces (17-13) would never get it closer than seven points the rest of the game. Redbirds guard Champ Oguchi paced his team with 20 points and five rebounds.
“It’s great to have Champ on your team,” ISU guard Lloyd Phillips said. “He hits a lot of tough shots in key moments.”
The senior from Houston was unable to share his thoughts on the game due to the training staff having to stitch his lip together.
“We had the whole team bleeding at one time,” ISU head coach Tim Jankovich said, “I looked up and (our trainer) is swabbing every guy on our team, honest to gosh. He’ll be fine tomorrow – he has to be. He doesn’t have a choice.”
Oguchi led the spurt with a pair of dunks and Phillips, Emmanuel Holloway and Alex Rubin each added a 3-pointer during the run. ”I always tell the guys that I kind of believe that some baskets are
worth more than others,” Jankovich said. “Dunks and threes are momentum changers.”
Shy Ely proved once again why he led the league this year in scoring by totaling a game-high 29 points Friday night.
“I have so much respect for them, and I have so much respect for Ely,” Jankovich said. “He reminds me so much of my college roommate, unfortunately, because he wasn’t playing for us, but he reminds me of Rolando Blackman a lot.”
The Redbirds, who broke a three-game losing streak, advance to face second-seeded Creighton in the final semi-final at 4:05 p.m Saturday. Evansville is now 1 -10 in MVC quarterfinal games, including six straight losses. Simmons, the 1982 Mr. Basketball selection from nearby Lawrenceville, Illinois, is 0-2 in the Scottrade Center since taking over the head job at his alma mater.