(MCT) — NORMAL — Final exams start next week at Illinois State. Coach Dan Muller had a test waiting for his Redbird basketball team Saturday night.
For 40 minutes.
ISU was sometimes too aggressive on defense, piling up fouls to the point where Muller once yelled, “Stop fouling!” However, the Redbirds put a stinging loss to Wyoming four days earlier behind them as Jackie Carmichael’s 24 points led the way to an 85-63 victory over Western Michigan before a Redbird Arena crowd of 6,269.
“We had a lot of guys who really contributed. Our defensive intensity and focus with the game plan was good,” said Muller. “They run a lot of good stuff and we guarded it well.
“We’ve been a consistent team other than 15 minutes against Wyoming (in an 81-67 loss on Tuesday). I would have been surprised if we did not play well.”
John Wilkins added 16 points and Tyler Brown 13 for the Redbirds (6-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak. Johnny Hill, who made his second start at point guard, did a lot of everything with six points, six rebounds and a career-high 10 assists to go with no turnovers.
The Redbird bench also contributed 39 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think we responded pretty well,” said Carmichael, who also had seven rebounds and six blocks. “We got a little bit loose in the first half and a little bit in the second, but other than that we took charges which is what he wanted and which definitely was part of the game plan.
“Johnny, Kaza (Keane) and BA (Bryant Allen) put great pressure on the ball in our full court press, which was great.”
Western Michigan (6-3) was paced by guard Nate Hutcheson’s 15 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Darius Paul added 14 points. The Broncos shot 33.9 percent from the field (19 of 56) and enjoyed a 41-35 rebounding advantage.
ISU built a 42-35 lead at the intermission and gradually expanded the margin in the second half.
A pair of 3-pointers from Nick Zeisloft helped put ISU ahead, 59-45, with 12:30 left. Western Michigan got the deficit down to 66-57 after Shayne Whittington sank two free throws with 6:43 left, but the Broncos couldn’t get any closer.
Western Michigan was done after Jordan Threloff stuffed Whittington’s dunk attempt and Hill converted that into a three-point play at the other end for a 74-59 lead with 4:13 left.
It took the Redbirds a while to get going. Western Michigan zoomed to an 8-0 lead as ISU missed its first five shots from the field.
“I thought at the start of the game we were a little nervous,” said Muller. “We wanted to play so well that it froze us a little bit, but Johnny Hill had some deflections and made some plays that got us going, and from then on it was good, solid play.”
ISU took its first lead at 15-14 on Carmichael’s 12-foot bank shot with 11:05 left. The Redbirds used a 12-3 run, sparked by Wilkins and Geoffrey Allen off the bench, to gain its biggest first-half lead at 29-20.
The rest of the half turned into a free throw contest. There were 22 fouls called and 24 free throw attempts in the first half as both teams – and the crowd – were getting annoyed by the whistles.
Carmichael scored 16 points in the first half, hitting an 18-footer from the top of the key with two seconds left to give ISU a 42-35 lead. Carmichael also had five rebounds and four blocks in the first 20 minutes.
ISU will take next week off for final exams before returning Dec. 16 to face Morgan State at 4:30 p.m. at Redbird Arena.