NORMAL, Ill. (AP) -- Osiris Eldridge scored 14 points and Illinois State beat Utah State 61-57 Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Illinois State (25-9), disappointed after being left out of the NCAA tournament, will play Dayton in a second-round NIT game at Redbird Arena. Dayton downed Cleveland State 66-57 in its first-round game earlier Wednesday.The Redbirds played smothering defense from the opening tip-off, holding Utah State's high-powered offense, which led the nation with an overall shooting average of 51.5 percent, to only 44 percent from the field on 22-of-49 shooting.Even though Illinois State shot only 40 percent from the field (23-57), the Redbirds were 9-23 on 3-pointers.The game was physical from the outset and marred by turnovers.Utah State (24-11) turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and ended up with 18 turnovers on the night. ISU turned the ball over 11 times in the game.Illinois State forward Anthony Slack grabbed seven rebounds and electrified the crowd of 6,400 with two spectacular slam dunks late in the first half. He finished the night with eight points.Jaycee Carroll led Utah State with 15 points but shot only 4-for-15.Illinois State, now 16-1 at home this season, was second in the Missouri Valley Conference to Drake, while Utah State finished in a three-way tie with Boise State, Nevada and New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference.The last time ISU and Utah State met was in 1995, when the Redbirds edged the Aggies in overtime in a first-round NIT game.The Redbirds' 25 victories ties the school's single-season record. Illinois State also won 25 games in 1967-68 and 1997-98.