GAME NOTES: Intrastate foes will square off at Redbird Arena on Sunday afternoon, as the Illinois State Redbirds play host to the DePaul Blue Demons in a non-conference clash.
DePaul recently closed out a season-long five-game winning streak with four wins, including three straight over Florida Atlantic (81-70), Chicago State (77-70) and most recently versus Houston Baptist on Wednesday night (78-58). The Blue Demons are now 7-4 on the season and won their only true road game at Milwaukee on Nov. 19, 80-71.
Illinois State righted a terrible 1-4 start to the season by reeling off a four-game winning streak from late-November to early-Decemer. The Redbirds snapped that streak with a 90-75 road loss at Oakland on Dec. 16 but bounced back nicely at home on Thursday with a 64-58 triumph over Tennessee State.
DePaul has a commanding 21-3 lead over Illinois State in the all-time series, although the sides haven't met since the 1996-97 season.
Although the Blue Demons just narrowly outshot Houston Baptist from the field in their latest game, 40.3 percent to 37.7 percent, they were able to cruise to an easy 20-point victory by shooting 21-of-28 from the foul line and by winning the turnover battle, 18-9. Cleveland Melvin scored a season-high 28 points on 11-of-20 from the field while also adding 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Tommy Hamilton tallied 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Brandon Young chipped in 11 points to the winning effort.
DePaul boasts a solid offensive attack this season, shooting 45.1 percent from the field (including 36.4 percent from 3-point range) en route to 76.5 points per game, which is 3.8 points more than it allows. Melvin is the centerpiece at forward with 17.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and he stretches the floor with an outstanding 20-of-39 showing from 3-point range (.513). Young (15.1 ppg) dishes out 4.3 assists per game, while Hamilton (11.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Billy Garret (10.1 ppg, 3.9 apg) are also regular contributors.
While the Redbirds hung on for just a six-point lead the last time out against Tennessee State, they were in complete control from start to finish as they never trailed. They shot a lackluster 33.3 percent from the field, but the difference came at the free-throw line, where they outscored TSU, 23-9. Daishon Knight lead the way with 16 points while draining all eight of his attempts from the stripe. Paris Lee contributed 11 points, six assists and four steals, while Bobby Hunter put up 10 points.
Illinois State has not been the sharpest shooting squad this season, as it makes good on just 41 percent of its field goal tries for 72.9 points per game, and its scoring defense (74.3 ppg) isn't strong enough to support it. The team's saving grace has been its persistence from beyond the arc, as it drains 8.8 3-pointers per game. Knight leads the team with 14.5 points per game and has a team-best 19 long-range buckets. Zach Lofton (11.3 ppg) and Bobby Hunter (9.8 ppg) are the complementary options, although Lofton has been a detriment to his team with a dreadful .296 field-goal percentage.
If the Redbirds find their stroke from 3-point range, they will have a strong chance at defending their home floor, but in all likelihood it'll have no answer for Melvin in the frontcourt, as DePaul powers its way to victory.
Game Date and Time