Covering the Land of Lincoln

Redbirds Host Flames to Finish Two-Game Homestand

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  • Illinois State Game Notes (PDF)
  • UIC Game Notes (PDF)

NORMAL, Ill. – The Illinois State Redbirds, fresh off of a win over MVC-leading Southern Illinois, close out its two game homestand on Wednesday night when the team hosts the UIC Flames in a 7 p.m. tip-off inside CEFCU Arena.


• The Redbirds are third in NCAA Division I in free throw percentage, making 80.8 percent of their free tries during the season.
• Illinois State 5th-year guard Seneca Knight was named the MVC Newcomer of the Week, announced by the MVC office on Monday afternoon, after averaging 21.5 points per game for the Redbirds, making 65 percent of his shots from the field and 4-of-5 from long range.
• Illinois State senior forward Kendall Lewis is one of nine players in NCAA Division I with at least 19 blocks, 31 assists, 35 steals and 235 points this season.
• UIC head coach Luke Yaklich, assistant coach Will Veasley, and director of player personnel Madison Williams have all spent time at Illinois State as either a coach or a student-athlete.
• Redbird guard Malachi Poindexter has made 38-of-39 free throws this season, and is one of just eight players in the country with just one miss with at least 20 attempts, and trails only Walter Clayton of Iona for the most makes in the country with only one miss.
• Illinois State seventh leading scorer (Colton Sandage) averages 6.8 points per game, which is the second-highest seventh-leading scorer in the MVC this season.
• This season the Redbirds have seven different players who have led the team in scoring, including a seven-game span in which ISU had seven different leading scorers.
• There are seven men’s basketball players across NCAA Division I that have attempted at least 25 free throws in conference play with one miss or fewer, and two of those nine are on the ISU squad as Malachi Poindexter is 28-of-29 and Kendall Lewis is 25-of-25.
• As Illinois State head coach Ryan Pedon adjusts his starting lineups to find the proper mix, the Redbirds have seen 11 different starting lineup combinations in 23 games, which is tied for the fifth-most different starting lineups in the country this season.
• Illinois State is 421-335 all-time against schools inside the state of Illinois, having played every school at least five times and are 4-4 against teams from the state this season.
• When Illinois State topped Missouri State by 10 in overtime on January 11, it marked the fourth-largest scoring margin in an overtime game in Redbird history.
• Illinois State graduate student Alex Kotov is one of just six players from Russia, and the only from Moscow currently playing in NCAA Division I. Harouna Sissoko is one of 22 student-athletes from Mali, and is the only one that hails from Kayes, as the majority of Division I student-athletes from the country come from Bamako.


UIC comes into the mid-week contest in Normal looking to snap its nine-game losing skid, including an 83-76 loss at home to Bradley in its last contest.

In the loss to the Braves, UIC was led by 25 points from Jace Carter, while Jalen Jackson scored 15 points off the bench. Filip Skobalj added 14 points with Tre Anderson narrowly missing double-figure scoring with nine points. Carter pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to lead the Flames, as Anderson and Toby Okani each dished out five assists to tie for the team lead. Carter also led UIC in steals and blocks with two apiece.

For the year Carter leads the team in scoring (16.1 points per game) and steals, and is second on the team in rebounds. Toby Okani – who averages 12.2 points per game – pulls down a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game while also leading the team with 25 blocked shots. Anderson is the third Flame player to average double-figure scoring at 11.8 points per game, while Skobalj averages 7.7 with a team-best 43 made three-point baskets on the year.


This season, having made 324 of 401 free throws, Illinois State ranks fourth in NCAA Division I in the category. There have been just 21 schools in NCAA Division I history to finish a season with a free throw percentage at .800 or better. The school record for season free throw percentage is .775 from the 2001-02 season and the MVC record is .797 set by Missouri State in 2021-22.


Later in the notes we talk about how last season ISU forward Kendall Lewis had one of just four total seasons in program history with 30+ blocks, steals, and assists. Lewis is back to his same tricks this season, as he is one of just nine players in NCAA Division I with at least 19 blocks, 35 steals, and 31 assists this season, while scoring at least 2350 points.


The UIC bench has many faces that Redbird fans will remember. Flame head coach Luke Yaklich spent four years as a student at Illinois State, and then as an assistant coach for four seasons from 2013-17. Assistant coach Will Veasley spent three seasons at Illinois State, the first two seasons (2013-15) as the team’s video coordinator and another season (2015-16) as the Redbirds’ director of operations. Director of player personnel Madison Williams was a member of the Redbird basketball squad for two seasons (2016-18) before seeing his career end on a medical hardship.


After making his first 36 free throw attempts this season before his first miss, and is now 38-of-39 from the charity stripe, Malachi Poindexter is now one of just eight players in the country with just one miss with at least 20 attempts on the season, and only trails Walter Clayton of Iona (53-of-54) for the most makes in the country with only one miss.


Illinois State has a long and storied basketball history and has faced off against eight different opponents over 100 times each. 


This season Illinois State has seven different student-athletes averaging near seven points per game and is one of just two schools in the conference to have their seventh scorer at 6.8 points per game or better (of those who have played in at least half of their team’s games).


Across all of NCAA Division I, there are seven men’s basketball players who have attempted at least 15 free throws in conference play with one miss or fewer. Of those 16, two are members of the Illinois State squad, as Malachi Poindexter is 28-of-29 in MVC play while Kendall Lewis is a perfect 25-of-25, the most makes without a miss in conference play in the country this season.


Illinois State fifth-year guard Seneca Knight was named the MVC Newcomer of the Week, announced by the conference office on Monday, October 30. Knight averaged 21.5 points per game for Illinois State, as the Redbirds went 1-1 with an overtime loss on the road at rival Bradley on Wednesday before returning and topping MVC-leader Southern Illinois on Sunday. He made 13-of-20 shots for the week (65.0%), was 4-of-5 from long range, and 13-of-15 (86.7%) from the charity stripe, as he also averaged four rebounds on the week with two assists, two blocks, and two steals.


Over a seven-game stretch ending with Chicago State on December 19, Illinois State saw seven different players lead the team in scoring, starting with the Cayman Islands Classic final game against Rhode Island where Kendall Lewis led the team in scoring. Seneca Knight led the team in scoring against Murray State while Liam McChesney recorded the team scoring leader against Belmont. Against Eastern Michigan Colton Sandage paced the ‘Birds while Darius Burford led the team against SIUE, Malachi Poindexter against Ball State and Luke Kasubke against Chicago State. 


Illinois State head coach Ryan Pedon is one of a surprisingly-large 59 head coaches that will be in their first season at their current schools – the list does not include four head coaches this season: Steve Prohm at Murray State, Thad Matta at Butler, Ed Conroy at the Citadel, and Lorenzo Romar at Pepperdine who are in their first year in their second stints at their school (as of games played on January 28)


Against Indiana State on January 4, the Redbirds saw their seven-game streak of not being out-rebounded snapped. That streak is the third longest by an Illinois State squad since the 1983-84 season.


After Illinois State’s season-opening loss, Illinois State’s 20 head coaches have a 13-7 combined record in their first game on the sidelines for ISU. Of the coaches that won the 13 games, none have led Illinois State to an NCAA Tournament berth. On the other side of the ledger, each of Illinois State’s last five head coaches to lose their ISU opener have taken the Redbirds to a NCAA tournament appearance in their career. 


There are 37 schools whose school name starts with the same letter as its mascot. Of those 37, the Redbirds face off against five different opponents, accounting for eight total games as three schools (Belmont, Bradley, and Southern Illinois) are in the MVC alongside the Redbirds (Chicago State Cougars and Eastern Michigan Eagles are the other two schools that ISU faces this season. (credit for the idea behind the note goes to ISU MBB assistant coach Andrew Dakich)


Due to a number of factors, Illinois State head coach Ryan Pedon has been forced to change up his lineup 11 different times, which is tied for the fifth-highest total in the country this season.


Behind a week in which he averaged 22 points and the Redbirds won a pair of games, Illinois State fifth-year guard Colton Sandage was named the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week. He averaged 22 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in a week in which the Redbirds went 2-0 – and 3-0 over a seven-day stretch with the team’s win over Belmont on Sunday. 


With his three-games at the Cayman Islands Classic, Illinois State fifth-year guard Seneca Knight was named to the All-Tournament Team at the event. He averaged 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds – both leading the team – while also grabbing three steals and dishing out five assists over the three games.


This season Illinois State has eight games scheduled against schools with purple as one of their school colors (or violet, if you’re a Roy G Biv kind of person). Those eight games represent the most such games in a season in program history, topping the previous high-water mark of seven set four different times, most recently in 2014-15 when the ‘Birds faced Weber State, and three games each against UNI and Evansville. There are 23 schools in NCAA Division I with purple/violet as one of their school colors including: Albany, Alcorn State, Central Arkansas, Clemson, East Carolina, Furman, High Point, Holy Cross, James Madison, Kansas State, Lipscomb, LSU, Niagara, Northwestern, Northwestern State, Portland, Stephen F. Austin, Tennessee Tech, TCU, Washington, Weber State, Western Carolina, and Western Illinois. (credit for the idea behind this note goes to men’s basketball graduate assistant Jack Betz).


In Illinois State’s win over Missouri State – the second consecutive season that the two teams have gone into overtime in Normal – the Redbirds out-scored the Bears 15-5 in overtime. The 10-point overtime win margin is the fourth-highest in an overtime game in program history.


There are a dozen NCAA Division I schools inside of the state of Illinois, including four within the Missouri Valley Conference. The Redbirds are 421-335 all-time against teams from the Land of Lincoln, including a 4-4 record this season with wins over Eastern Illinois SIUE, and Chicago State, and will have 10 total games against in-state schools.


Illinois State University and CEFCU (pronounced SEFF-Q) have come to terms on a naming rights and sponsorship agreement valued at approximately $3.1 million over 10 years. The agreement, which will support the funding for ongoing and ever-evolving costs associated with the student-athlete experience, was initiated by LEARFIELD’s Redbird Sports Properties, the University’s athletics multimedia rightsholder. The former Redbird Arena will be known as CEFCU Arena – Home of the Redbirds, with the University’s Board of Trustees approving the arena name change at its October 14 meeting. The CEFCU Arena naming rights and sponsorship agreement will continue to support funding of the Redbird Student-Athlete experience. Particularly in these ever-evolving times, funding is vital to maintaining and expanding upon the current NCAA, Division I student-athlete experience.


There are 358 NCAA Division I schools (including the transitional schools) playing basketball this season. Of those schools, 67 have “State” in its name. Of that 67, 31 are direct state schools (ie, Illinois State), while five others have the state in their name, but with a descriptor (Central Connecticut, East Tennessee, Southeast Missouri). The remainder of the schools – 31 total – have no direct state reference in its name (Boise State, Wichita State, etc.) but use State in the name. Of that group, Illinois State will face off against four such schools in the non-conference season: Murray, Northwestern, Chicago, and Ball.


Kendall Lewis had reached double-figure rebounds in each of the team’s first three games, becoming one of just seven players in school history to open the season with at least two straight double-figure games, before the stretch was snapped with a seven rebound game in the team’s fourth game of the season.


On a three-pointer with 12:35 to play in the first half against Western Kentucky, Illinois State fifth-year guard Seneca Knight scored his 1,000th career point between his time at San Jose State, BYU, and now at Illinois State.


The Illinois State men’s basketball team closed its 2022 fall semester with a grade point average of 3.04, a new program record (not counting the COVID season). 


In his first signing class as head coach of the Illinois State Redbirds, ISU head men’s basketball coach Ryan Pedon has announced that three future Redbirds: Johnny Kinziger, Ty Pence, and Chase Walker; have signed their National Letters of Intent to play for ISU starting in the 2023-24 season.
     Johnny Kinziger, a 6-0 point guard, is a two-time All-State honoree at De Pere, Wisconsin. Last season he averaged 21 points, four points, and four assists per game, and is 150 points away from becoming his school’s all-time leading scorer.
     Ty Pence is a 6-6 guard from St. Joseph’s, Illinois, and is also a two-time All-State performer. The second highest nationally-rated recruit in program history, he is ranked 188th nationally after averaging 23.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game last season. 
     The third and final signee is 6-9 forward Chase Walker, from Columbus, Ohio. Walker was named to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I Special Mention list after averaging 17.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, earning him Central Catholic League Player of the Year accolades.


On a three-pointer with 12:35 to play in the first half against Western Kentucky, Illinois State fifth-year guard Seneca Knight scored his 1,000th career point between his time at San Jose State, BYU, and now at Illinois State.


The Illinois State men’s basketball team closed its 2022 fall semester with a grade point average of 3.04, a new program record (not counting the COVID season). 


With his 14 rebounds in the 2022-23 season opener against Western Illinois, Redbird forward Kendall Lewis tied for the third-most total rebounds in the opening game of the season in program history. 

RARE 30-30-30

Last season Illinois State senior forward Kendall Lewis has 38 steals, 32 blocked shots, and 33 assists. Since 1993-94, only 30 players in the MVC have put up at least 30 points, 30 steals, and 30 assists in a single season, and he is one of just two players – along with Cameron Krutwig – to do it since 2017-18. He is the first Redbird since 2007-08 to be a part of the 30-30-30 club, and one of four players in school history to be a part of the group. Additionally, including Lewis, there are just 16 players in the country this season with at least 32 in all three categories.


With the team having six players standing 6-8 or taller, this Illinois State squad has the fifth-tallest average height of any team in program history with an average height of 6-6, this years’ team trails the tallest two teams (1976-77 and 1987-88) by just over 1/10 of an inch per player. Below are the top-10 tallest and shortest Illinois State teams since 1962-63.


Incoming Illinois State transfer Joe Petrakis made 58 three-point baskets last season. While a big number of itself, it is especially rare with how big Petrakis is. Last season he was one of just seven players in NCAA Division I to be 6-10 or taller and make 50 three-pointers in a season. Of those seven, just four are playing collegiate basketball in 2022-23.


When new Illinois State head coach Ryan Pedon brought in Colton Sandage on scholarship, he became the first Bloomington/Normal resident to be brought in on scholarship since his brother, Brandon, in 2005-09. Lijah Donnelly, who initially came to ISU as a walk-on was given a scholarship during his second season. Since 1962-63, there have been just 11 Redbird men’s basketball players from the pair of towns.


For many longtime Redbird fans, some of their fondest memories of Illinois State basketball come from games that were hosted inside historic Horton Field House. Since 1989, CEFCU Arena has served as host of Redbird basketball games but for one day only, ISU men’s basketball returned to Horton Field House with Redbird legend Doug Collins in attendance on December 10 when the Redbirds topped SIU Edwardsville 77-71 in front of 3,420 loud ISU fans.
     Horton Fieldhouse – which was the home of the Redbird basketball program from its opening on December 4, 1963, through the previously last played contest on December 2, 1988. The arena played host to numerous classic ISU victories, including: a 91-81 win over ninth-ranked Tulsa during the 1984 season; an 81-76 win over fourth-ranked Indiana State – featuring future NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird – during the 1977-78 season; and an 88-84 win over fourth-ranked UNLV in 1977.


Illinois State men’s basketball head coach Ryan Pedon has announced the signing of Benjamin Elementary School second grader Ty Andracke at a press conference held inside CEFCU Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

The Bloomington, Illinois, native signed his draft-day letter in the presence of his family and newest teammates. The group celebrated Ty’s signing with a photo shoot and dinner.

Andracke was connected with Redbird men’s basketball through Team IMPACT, a national nonprofit organization that connects children facing serious or chronic illnesses with collegiate athletic programs, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes. Children in the program are drafted to a team on a special signing day planned by their teammates.

As a member of the ISU men’s basketball family, Ty will attend Redbird practices, games, team dinners, events and more.

Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched more than 1,700 children with more than 500 colleges and universities in 49 states, reaching over 50,000 participating student-athletes. The child joins the athletic team, and the student-athletes join the child’s support team. Throughout the journey, the child gains strength, camaraderie, and support while the student-athletes experience lessons of courage, resiliency, and perspective they can’t learn in a classroom.


While it’s not quite through the quad and into the gymnasium, it is to the free throw line, where Malachi Poindexter had made all 34 free throws he has attempted this season until a miss late in the first half at Bradley. That stands just behind the second-longest free throw streak in program history, behind Gene Jontry from the 1956-57 season (35) and the school record held by Vince Greene, who made 57 consecutive free throws between the end of the 2003-04 season and through the beginning of the 2004-05 season. His 34 consecutive makes also ties him for the 14th-longest consecutive free throw streak in MVC history.


There are 57 NCAA Division I head men’s basketball coaches who played at the NCAA Division III level (the lowest of the NCAA’s three divisions). Among those is Illinois State first-year head coach Ryan Pedon who played at the College of Wooster, the same school as first-year South Carolina head coach Lamont Paris. Additionally, Marquette head coach Shaka Smart (Kenyon) and Clemson head coach Brad Brownell (DePauw) played in the same conference (North Coast Athletic Conference) as the Wooster pair.
     The remaining coaches with a Division III background are Alabama’s Nate Oats (Marantha Baptist), Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd (Whitman), Boston U’s Joe Jones (SUNY-Oswego), Bucknell’s Nathan Davis (Randolph-Macon), Buffalo’s Jim Whitesell (Luther), Campbell’s Kevin McGeehan (Gettysburg), Charlotte’s Ron Sanchez (SUNY-Oneonta), Columbia’s Jim Engles (Dickinson), Dartmouth’s David McLaughlin (Colby), Drexel’s Zach Spiker (Ithaca), Eastern Washington’s David Riley (Whitworth), Fairleigh Dickinson’s Tobin Anderson (Wesleyan), George Washington’s Chris Caputo (Westfield State), Hawai’i’s Eran Ganot (Swarthmore), Iowa State’s T.J. Otzelberger (UW-Whitewater), Longwood’s Griff Aldrich (Hampden-Sydney), Marist’s John Dunne (Ithaca), McNeese’s John Aiken (Southern Maine), Mississippi State’s Chris Jans (Loras), Mount St. Mary’s Dan Engelstad (St. Mary’s), New Orleans’ Mark Slessinger (Aurora), Nicholls’ Austin Claunch (Emory), Norfolk State’s Robert Jones (New Paltz), North Florida’s Matthew Driscoll (Greensboro), Northeastern’s Bill Coen (Hamilton), Penn’s Steve Donahue (Ursinus), Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry (Hanover), Purdue Fort Wayne’s Jon Coffman (Washington & Lee), Rice’s Scott Pera (PSU-Harrisburg), Sacred Heart’s Anthony Latina (Brandeis), Saint Joseph’s Billy Lange (Rowan), St. Thomas’ John Tauer (St. Thomas), San Diego’s Steve Lavin (Chapman), San Francisco’s Chris Gerlufsen (Randolph-Macon), Santa Clara’s Herb Sendek (Carnegie Mellon), South Dakota’s Eric Peterson (UW-LaCrosse), Texas A&M Corpus Christi’s Steve Lutz (Texas Lutheran), Texas-Arlington’s Greg Young (Howard Payne), Towson’s Pat Skerry (Tufts), Tulsa’s Eric Konkol (UW-Eau Claire), UC Irvine’s Russell Turner (Hampden-Sydney), UMass Lowell’s Pat Duquette (Williams), UMBC’s Jim Ferry (Keene State), USC’s Andy Enfield (Johns Hopkins), Utah State’s Ryan Odom (Hampden-Sydney), VCU’s Mike Rhoades (Lebanon Valley), Vermont’s John Becker (Catholic Univ.), Virginia Tech’s Mike Young (Emory and Henry), Washington State’s Kyle Smith (Hamilton), Western Illinois’ Rob Jeter (UW-Platteville), William & Mary’s Dane Fischer (Ithaca), and Wisconsin’s Greg Gard (UW-Platteville)


Illinois State has two international student-athletes from locations that don’t have a large number of student-athletes competing in NCAA Division I. Alex Kotov is one of six Russians playing collegiate Division I basketball, while Harouna Sissoko is one of 22 student-athletes to hail from the West African country of Mali.


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