Illinois State becomes 1st team this season to win without shooting a free throw, advances to MVC finals

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America

ST. LOUIS — Illinois State blew past Southern Illinois in Saturday’s MVC semifinal matchup, 63-50, and the Redbirds did it without a single trip to the foul line. That makes them the first team since November 2013 to win a game without shooting a single free throw.

“The refs must’ve been blind. We was getting fouled,” senior forward Deontae Hawkins said. “I was tripping out there for a minute.”

Top-seeded Illinois State (27-5, 17-1 MVC) didn’t need the luxury of free throws as it drained 13 3-pointers and built 31-point lead early in the second half. Junior forward MiKyle McIntosh led the Redbirds with 15 points while senior guard Paris Lee had 12 along with 5 assists.

The final score was close only because Muller rested his starters for the final eight minutes. The sixth-seeded Salukis (17-16, 9-9) took advantage with 16-0 run to make the final three minutes at least slightly interesting.

“I kind of stopped looking at the scoreboard, and I kind of just went into — just reminiscing my last couple minutes of college basketball,” said senior guard Mike Rodriguez. “So I just realized that we lost by 13 at the end. So I think we were just playing just because it was the last time together.”

After the game, Illinois State coach Dan Muller was asked if he could remember a game where his team won without shooting a free throw.

“I think when I was in fifth grade,” he joked. “It’s a wild stat.”

The Redbirds move on to Sunday’s championship game against the winner of No. 2 seed Wichita State and No. 6 seed Missouri State. Playing their third game in three days, the Redbirds will be well-rested with nobody playing more than 53 total minutes over the tournament’s first two games.

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