GAME NOTES: In the second round of the College Basketball Invitational, the Illinois State Redbirds play host to the Texas A&M Aggies.
Texas A&M, which lost three straight games to close out the regular season and play in the SEC Tournament, got started in the CBI with a 59-43 win over Wyoming. The victory was the first for the Aggies in the CBI. However, securing a second may be tough considering they have a record of 1-8 in true road games this season.
Illinois State took on Morehead State in its first-round matchup, and prevailed in a 77-67 decision. The Redbirds are now 17-15 on the season, with the win over Morehead State coming after they went 1-3 in their previous four games.
In the only previous meeting between these two teams, Illinois State collected a 74-66 road victory during the 1984-85 season. The winner this time around will have to wait for the conclusion of other second-round action to determine its next opponent.
It was a defensive struggle last Wednesday for the Aggies, but a struggle they managed to survive. Texas A&M limited Wyoming to just 29.8 percent shooting, while dominating on the inside with advantages in both rebounding (41-27) and points in the paint (26-14).
Low-scoring affairs are the norm for Texas A&M, which is averaging only 65 ppg and shooting 42.8 percent from the field. The Aggies make up for the limited production on offense, to an extent, by holding opponents to 62.8 ppg on 39.9 percent shooting, ranking among the top-30 teams in the country in each category. Jamal Jones (13.3 ppg) is the only player on the roster averaging in double figures, despite connecting on just 37 percent from the floor. However, Jones had only six points on 1-of-9 shooting against Wyoming. Kourtney Roberson (9.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Antwan Space (6.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) made up the difference, with each posting a double-double.
Illinois State benefited from plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line to overpower Morehead State. The Redbirds knocked down 29-of-40 attempts at the stripe, compared to a 13-of-21 showing from the Eagles. That advantage was key considering ISU only made 38.5 percent of its shots from the floor overall.
The Redbirds have been a better offensive group than the Aggies this season, but not by much. They are scoring 69.1 ppg, despite shooting at a 40.9 percent clip. Daishon Knight (13.2 ppg) is one of three double-digit scorers on the roster, although he is sinking only 36.8 percent of his attempts from the field. He finished with a team-high 18 points against Morehead State, doing so on 5-of-15 shooting. Zach Lofton (11.3 ppg) is also a double-digit scorer as well as an erratic shooter, netting 33.9 percent from the field. He missed the first round of this tournament and his status remains unclear. Bobby Hunter (10.7 ppg) is a more consistent finisher for the Redbirds, knocking down 49 percent of his field goal attempts.
Road trips have been dismal affairs for the Aggies this season. Although the Redbirds won't run away with this one, playing in familiar territory will ultimately give them the edge.
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