First, I was trying to explain our team to my father. I settled upon telling him we have some great athletes and we have some great basketball players, but we only have one guy who I'm convinced belongs in both categories, and he's a freshman.
Second, how many schools do you think end in "State" that, unlike Illinois State, are not actually states. Sam Houston State, Bemidji State, Boise State, Fresno State, Ball State, you get the idea. Am I the only one who thinks this is really funny?
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As we come to it, it's 7-all five minutes in. Josh Owens does some work inside to put it off the glass for his 1000th career point. But Tyler Brown of Illinois State has eight points already after he hits his second three of the night to put Illinois State on top again.
Why are we playing our second unit? Where is Chasson Randle? Can't we wait until we have ensured a victory (and thus more games and more playing time for everyone) before subbing the starters out? Why am I so cranky when we're playing well and winning?
Dwight Powell dunks off Aaron Bright's no-look pass, then Bright finds Josh Huestis for a slam, and then Bright finds Powell for another dunk. Oh, and then Bright knocks down a three. Great stretch for him.
12-minute mark: Stanford 23, Illinois State 17
Bright hits his third three; he has nine points on all of three shots. If he can become more consistent (as he just turns it over), that is going to be one sick backcourt moving forward. Illinois State is keeping up with the hot shooting though, so in marked contrast to your Cardinal's usual M.O., we're running up and down the floor trading jumpers with our opponent.
Eight-minute mark: Stanford 28, Illinois State 25
Tyler Brown hits a three to give him 13. We might want to start going over screens on this guy. Illinois State hits another three; they're 7-of-13 while we're 4-of-6. Illinois State is actually up 31-30 right now, but I think we'll be okay tonight, because their shooting is going to have to come back to earth and we're dominating inside. Right on cue, it's Josh Owens with a block and Randle hits a three on our resulting possession.
Four-minute mark: Stanford 33, Illinois State 31
Powell is 3-of-4 after putting one in from close range; then we get a nice shot of one Mr. John Platz, who happens to be right behind Johnny Dawkins, who gives the "I can't believe it" face in response to a called charge on Bright. Randle is called on a jersey grab, but Illinois State is cooling off from the free throw line and the three point line, so they lead by all of one point, 36-35. Not for long, as Huestis knocks down his tenth three of the season – hard to defend a big guy who shoots like that. Two Illinois State free throws knot it up again, and we go to the locker room after Bright hits yet another three, rotating a good 120 degrees in the air to square up before his release. I be like dang.
Halftime: Stanford 41, Illinois State 38
Anthony Brown starts off the scoring for Stanford with a three, and then after a possession that sees us pinball the Wilson (Spalding?) from one corner to the other, Josh Owens seals the deal with an and-one layup. Illinois State keeps on scoring though. Nic Moore has 18 on 4-of-5 shooting deep, as we look to be headed for a winning score in the 80s.
16-minute mark: Stanford 51, Illinois State 48
Moore is 10-of-11 deep and Brown 11-of-12 deep over the Redbirds' game-and-a-half in the NIT. Holy patootie. Fading away with a man in his face, Brown has one rim out – only to hit the backboard and bounce back down. Then Brown hits yet another three; he's 5-of-5 deep. Then some guy named Jon Ekey hits a three. I'm not even mad, if every guy on the floor for Illinois State wants to shoot 70 percent from deep, not much we can do. 13-1 run for the Redbirds, though Powell scores four and snags a steal to keep us in it.
12-minute mark: Illinois State 63, Stanford 56
Powell with another bucket to cut the margin to five; he has a season-high 14. But Illinois State keeps shooting the lights out, pushing the margin to 11. It's gotten to the point where I can't track all the buckets, because by the time I write one down, another two guys just knocked down threes. However, Stanford keeps clawing back into this one because of No. 2. If the other day was Chasson Randle's coming out party, today is Aaron Bright's. He is up to a career-high 22 points on 8-of-8 shooting, including 6-of-6 deep.
Eight-minute mark: Illinois State 74, Stanford 69
We keep on clawing back, largely on Bright's back. He drives and dishes for a layup that just beats the shot clock. Brevin Knight is in the house; it is loud, and we have cut their lead from 11 to one. We're diving on the floor for loose balls, are taking charges and are visibly fired up. The fans are getting their money's worth here, as we've tied it up with under four to go.
Four-minute mark: Stanford 74, Illinois State 74
Illinois State has hit "just" three of their last 11 or, in other words, exactly one fewer make than you'd expect for the sample size. Both teams miss on good looks, then the Redbirds hit two free throws to break the tie. Powell follows Randle's miss with another miss on a 16-foot J. But we force a turnover and draw a foul on the ensuing scramble. Randle hits a free throw but misses the second… to Owens… who comes back to Randle for a corner three. He has 16. 1:52 left, good guys by two. Owens gets called for an illegal screen next time down the floor though, though, and then Randle draws a foul on the other end. Tyler Brown makes them both – why not, he's made everything else – and we're retied at 78 with 1:05 left. Two for one, please? We get a poor shot off on our take, but then Illinois State steps on the baseline en route to a would-be layup. Huge break, and we will have the last crack at a tie ballgame before a potential overtime. It's a Randle three off the rim. There was no one between Bright and the rim though – wish he would have gone all the way instead of kicking it out to Randle.
End of regulation: Stanford 74, Illinois State 74
Illinois State is in overtime for the third straight game. Experience advantage, or just fatigue? Aaron Bright now has 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting after putting us back into the lead on yet another jumper. Illinois State punches back with a five-footer off an o-board, but then Powell hits a J to reclaim the lead; he now has 16 on 7-of-9 shooting. Illinois State puts themselves in front yet again with two free throws, 84-83 them. Powell misses short but is there for the two-foot follow, 85-84 us. Illinois State with a layup at 80 seconds left. Randle three. Guys, this is an incredible back and forth. 88-86 us, 50 seconds to go after Powell has an emphatic block on the other end. Bright scoop and score with 20 to go, but Illinois State comes back with a quick drive and dunk, so we lead just 88-86 with 10 seconds left. We're just 10-of-19 from the line, but Anthony Brown makes two when it counts most, and that's all she wrote. We'll see you on Wednesday, folks.
Final: Stanford 92, Illinois State 88
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