Team Profile: 2008 BracketBuster Recap: Illinois State 54, Wright State 46

by Andrew Force | February 25th, 2008

On every team there are five guys that believe they can do better. They can score more points, make crazier passes, shutdown more opponents than the players who are actually on the floor. On the very best teams, there are one or two guys who truthfully can do better, if given the chance.

Illinois State belongs in the latter category. ISU, currently second in the Missouri Valley Conference, demonstrated true depth exists on their team in a 54-46 win over Wright State Sunday evening. With Dom Johnson missing his third game with tonsilitis, Emmanuel Holloway made just his fifth start of his career. After a team-wide slow start, in which Wright State made ISU their marionettes, Holloway and pals got the Redbird Arena rocking. Illinois State nabbed their first decent lead 15-12 on a Levi Dyer 3-pointer midway through the first half–a half in which neither team made even 10 baskets. The defense was predictably good for the Raiders. Rarely embarrassed, the Raiders held down the flashy ISU guards, at first.

The Redbirds burst onto the floor to begin the second half with red in their eyes. The ultra-modest Tim Jankovich lit the fire as best he could.

With Holloway (career high 16 points) leading the charge, ISU regained its early-season form. Holloway contributed in all facets of the game, collecting five rebounds and four assists. ISU capitalized on crowd energy by forcing turnovers and filling the nets with glorious jumpers. Wright State on the other hand produced one of its worst stretches of the season. Just one field goal attempt partnered with three turnovers in the first four game minutes. For a team accustomed to winning close games lost possessions hurt. They hurt both ego and winning chances. Frankly the game got away from the Raiders halfway through. If the Raiders of that forsaken lost ark fought as WSU did, Indiana Jones would have an unremarkable adventure. It took more than seven second half minutes for Wright State to accomplish the expectedly simple goal of making a field goal. They narrowed the chasm to 35-23.

WSU did manage a late charge on the shoulders of jump shots. Able to close the gap to three at 49-46, WSU just could not get over the hump.

One Raider in particular had an off night: Vaughn Duggins shot 4-15 from the floor. Entering play, Duggins led Wright State in scoring 10 of the last 13 games.

Duggs’ “struggs” left the Raiders on the losing end. The 11-game winning streak has come to an end. Falling to 20-8 on the season, WSU has no shot at an at-large bid, if there was one prior to the game.

Illinois State, with the win, improves to 20-7. The Redbirds also helped the Missouri Valley Conference to a perfect 5-0 in Bracketbusters contests this year. Eight of the 10 Valley teams have winning streaks right now, clearly a product of this weekends’ success.

The Redbirds are a strange case. Remember ISU was right alongside Drake as the media darlings of the Valley early on. Both began the conference campaign 6-0. Clearly Drake was the real deal, while ISU hovers in bubble land.  A win at in-state rival Southern Illinois in the Valley regular-season finale is critical for ISU’s at-large chances.

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