Home Basketball MVC Arch Madness Game 1 – Illinois State 58, Indiana State 53

MVC Arch Madness Game 1 – Illinois State 58, Indiana State 53

by Mike Kern

Antonio Reeves led a second-half comeback with 11 points, including three crucial points in the final minute, as Illinois State rallied to beat Indiana State, 58-53, in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Thursday night at Enterprise Center.

This marked the first time since 2020 that the No. 8 seed advanced to the quarterfinal round and just the second time since 2019. Illinois State will meet top-seeded UNI in a 12 p.m. quarterfinal round tip off Friday

The Redbirds, beating Indiana State for the second time in a week, improved their record to 13-19, while advancing to the quarterfinal round of the MVC Tournament for the first time since 2019.

Indiana State owned a 23-17 rebounding advantage in the first half, but Illinois State outrebounded the Sycamores, 20-10 in the second half. The Redbirds also shot 52.2 percent (12-23) in the second half to fuel the comeback.

Reeves led the Redbirds with 15 points, while teammate Josiah Strong added 13 points with nine coming in the second half. Kendall Lewis led the Redbirds with eight rebounds, including six in the second half. Junior Abdou Ndiaye dished a career-high three assists. Coming into the game, he’d totaled four assists on the season.

The loss extended the Sycamore losing streak to six games, the longest losing streak of the season for Indiana State. The Sycamores closed out the season with an 11-20 record.

Indiana State made seven treys to tie a school season record of 270 treys.

Junior Kailex Stephens and sophomore Zach Hobbs led the Sycamores with 12 points apiece.  Stephens grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Hobbs nailed four three-point baskets. Sophomore guard Xavier Bledson extended his free throw streak to 27, by making two second-half free throws.

Trailing 43-33 with 11:28 left in the game, Illinois State went on a 20-9 run, while making seven of nine shots to grab a 53-52 lead following a rebound basket by Abdou Ndiaye with 2:24 left.

Reeves then scored the next three points for Illinois State, including a free throw with 23.8 seconds left to give Illinois State a 56-53 lead. Indiana State had a chance to tie the game, but a three-point shot by Xavier Bledson with 12.9 seconds left fell short. Two free throws by Mark Freeman with 11.6 seconds left sealed the victory.

With the score tied 33-33, Indiana State went on an 8-0 run including three-point baskets from Bledson and Stephens to grab a 41-33 lead forcing Illinois State to call a timeout with 12:11 left. Five of those points came off two Redbird turnovers. A layup by Stephens extended the run to 10-0 giving Indiana State its biggest lead of the game at 43-33.

Hobbs came off the bench hitting three three-point baskets, including two in the final 1:47 of the first half fueling an 8-4 run that enabled Indiana State to enjoy a 28-23 lead. The Sycamores had almost as many turnovers (11) as baskets made (10) but were able to maintain the lead because of cold shooting from Illinois State which closed out the half missing eight of its final 10 shots.

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