Morehead State had moments throughout the season where they struggled to score in the halfcourt. Illinois State would love to that problem. Theirs? Long periods of time they couldn’t score. At all. In their MVC Tournament loss to Missouri State, the Redbirds shot just 31% from the field, scoring just 48 points despite five three-pointers from Zach Lofton. It was the seventh time this season Illinois State was held under 40% shooting.
Despite their offensive struggles, ISU finished over .500 and 9-9 in the Missouri Valley. That should give you a pretty good indicator how good their defense is. It did have one weakness throughout the season: they struggled shutting down three-point shooters. That’s not really great news for one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation in Morehead State.
One stat that doesn’t ever get any love is block-percentage, which is simply the percentage of shots that a team blocks, or gets blocked. Illinois State was 35th in the nation in Block%, blocking over 13% of all shots. Morehead State? Seventh worst team at having their shots blocked.
Morehead State’s path to victory is as it’s always been: get to the free-throw line, and rebound, two thing they’re very skilled at. ISU’s defense will likely force some turnovers, but their offense is unlikely to put Morehead State away. This is a very young Redbirds team, with no seniors, and an average experience of less than one-year in Division I.
I wondered silently after the Eagles loss in Nashville if their style of basketball — that physical, in your face style — was viable in today’s game with today’s rules. Five or ten years ago, absolutely. Morehead State can use they physicality to get to the line, but when you commit more fouls than your draw, it’s not going to benefit you. The thing is: Illinois State plays a similar style. This isn’t a game that’s going to be about who can force their opponents to play their way, but who can execute their game plan the best.