Junior guard Antonio Reeves produced 21 points and 10 rebounds as the Illinois State Redbirds downed the short-handed UTSA Roadrunners, 81-64, Tuesday afternoon in Normal, Ill.
Missouri Valley Conference-based Illinois State shot 55 percent from the field, including 59 percent in the second half, to subdue UTSA.
The Redbirds led by 11 points at halftime and pumped the advantage to as many as 23 twice with about 10 minutes remaining.
Playing without three players, the Roadrunners stayed in the game for most of the first half before fading to their second straight loss.
In the end, they couldn’t keep pace with the Redbirds, falling to 0-2 without starting point guard Jordan Ivy-Curry.
Ivy-Curry and reserve forward Aleu Aleu have been out the last two games in Covid-19 protocols.
Reserve center Phoenix Ford didn’t play as he prepares for the birth of his first child, a school spokesman said in a text.
Center Jacob Germany led the Roadrunners with 17 points and five rebounds. Dhieu Deing, the team’s leading scorer, had a tough day with five of 16 shooting. He finished with 14 points.
Reserve guard Christian Tucker came off the bench for a career-high 12 points.
Once again, offense was a struggle for the Roadrunners, who finished with 37 percent shooting. UTSA hit only 3 of 20 attempts from 3-point territory.
Illinois State 8-5
Behind the outside shooting of Reeves, the Redbirds shot 51 percent from the field and rolled to a 39-28 lead at intermission.
Illinois State was effective in transition and in half court sets in hitting 17 of 33 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
UTSA started with a burst of energy on both ends of the floor to take a 10-7 lead. Deing hit a three-pointer and Germany nailed two baskets, including a converted three-point play.
From there, the Redbirds controlled the action, with Reeves hitting six of eight from the field and two 3-pointers.
Reeves, a 6-6 junior guard, finished the half with 14 points and six rebounds. His 3-point shot with 5:11 remaining lifted the Redbirds into a 32-20 lead with 5:11 remaining.
For UTSA in the first half, Germany had nine points. Cedrick Alley Jr. had six points and five rebounds. The Roadrunners were shooting 38.7 percent from the field.
A UTSA home game against Our Lady of the Lake, originally scheduled for Wednesday night, has been postponed because of Covid issues in the OLLU program.
So, for the time being, the next game on the Roadrunners’ schedule is Dec. 30, when they travel to play at Middle Tennessee State in the Conference USA opener.
“They got a bunch of guys that can shoot the basketball, and they got some transition buckets. We just couldn’t slow them down,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “Our offensive struggles were pretty apparent in both halves. (Christian Tucker) was the one bright spot there. Gave us some great penetration on multiple occasions.”
On the break for Christmas, Henson said he will give his players the rest of the week off with a plan to return to practice on Sunday.
“We’re not playing the way we want to, but our guys are doing a pretty good job of staying together,” Henson said. “They understand that we’re not there, but we’re not that far off.”
When the team gathers again to resume workouts, Henson said he hopes to have everyone back.
“It’s a fresh start,” Henson said. “We got to take the positives and build on ’em. Got to stay together. Got to keep getting better. Hopefully we’ll get Jordan and Aleu back (and) get Phoenix back.”
Added Henson: “It’s (about) to get real, real hard, real real soon. But I think our guys are going to be up for it.”