NORMAL, Ill. – It was a new game at a new venue against a new team, but it was the same old story for IUPUI Wednesday night. Illinois State outscored IUPUI 44-29 in the first half and shot over 54 percent. IUPUI didn’t shoot well all game, rebounded poorly and never recovered in a 77-63 loss.
Matt O’Leary led the Jaguars once again with 17 points on 14 shots and seven rebounds. Ron Patterson scored 15 points and shot 3-for-7 from three-point range. Darell Combs scored 13 points, but continued to shoot poorly at 5-for-17. This was his fourth straight game shooting under 40 percent.
The starters played well but the bench didn’t show up at all. They missed all four of their field goal attempts and finished with five points, all from Aaron Brennan at the free-throw line. It was their worst performance of the season, but shouldn’t have undone IUPUI’s chances given Illinois State’s bench barely topped them. Tony Willis scored seven points on four shots for Illinois State, but the rest of the bench shot 1-for-7 for two points.
With the exception of their last game, a 61-58 loss to Southern Illinois – Edwardsville, all four of IUPUI’s losses came because of a bad first half. The critical stretch this time came once again right in the middle of the first half. IUPUI led 12-11 with under 14 minutes left when Keyshawn Evans stole the ball and scored a transition layup. D.J. McCall turned the ball over on the other end and after Deontae Hawkins missed a shot, Phil Fayne got the putback. It was just one of 13 offensive rebounds for Illinois State that led to 18 second-chance points.
After Willis blocked Combs layup, Fayne scored again with a dunk in transition forcing a timeout from IUPUI. The timeout didn’t do any good though and the Jaguars didn’t regain their composure. Out of the timeout Josh James turned the ball over leading to another transition dunk. Another missed IUPUI shot and Fayne layup later and Illinois State turned their 12-11 deficit into a 21-12 lead. The 10-0 run took just 2:05 off the clock.
Illinois State extended the lead to 18 points before Combs 3-pointer at the end of the half. The lead remained between 10 and 18 points the rest of the way.
IUPUI shot better from the free-throw line, but not by much. They hit the 75 percent mark for the firs time this season shooting 15-for-20. Despite better free-throw shooting, Illinois State crushed the Jaguars on the offensive glass (13-7), in second-chance points (18-5), in the points in the paint (40-22) and as a result shot 50 percent while IUPUI finished under 40 percent. IUPUI’s offensive rebounds, rebound differential (minus-11), made field goals (21) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.79-to-1) were all season lows.
IUPUI will continue their road trip at Ball State on Saturday. The two teams have played extremely close games the last two years. IUPUI won 71-69 on a buzzer-beater in overtime two years ago, but their comeback attempt last year fell short and Ball State took it 61-58. Saturday’s game at Ball State will start at 2 p.m.