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Illinois State’s balanced attack too much for ODU



According to guard DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, the Illinois State Red Birds’ success Sunday night was easy to explain.

“Everybody played their role,” he said. “As long as everybody plays their role, we get good results.”

With four players scoring in double figures and the team’s defense stifling Old Dominion at nearly every turn, the Redbirds registered a 64-45 rout the Monarchs at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to advance to the Paradise Jam championship game.

Akoon-Purcell, whose father is a native of St. Thomas, continued to enjoy a successful homecoming of sorts. He tied reserve guard Bobby Hunter in a balanced scoring attack with 12 points to lead the team.

Freshman forward Deontae Hawkins added 11 and 6-foot-10, 257-pound center Reggie Lynch contributed 10 points, missing just one of his six shots.

Even more important was the team’s ability to produce offense off defense. Playing 40 minutes of trapping matchup zone, Illinois State (2-1) scored its first 12 points off turnovers and enjoyed a 20-3 advantage in points off turnovers.

“We came out with great energy,” Redbirds coach Dan Muller said of his team’s fast start. “We located their shooters and made plays on both ends of the floor.”

Illinois State scored the first nine points, expanding that lead to 22-6 at the 8:35 mark of the first half as reserve forward Will Ransom converted a layup. The margin stayed in double figures for most of the game’s remainder, save for a brief spurt of competence by the Monarchs late in the first half.

Forward Richard Ross’ layup with 1:09 left in the half capped a 12-3 spurt and drew Old Dominion (3-1) within 29-24. The Redbirds scored the half’s last four points to take a nine-point lead into intermission, then blew it open in the second half’s first 7 1/2 minutes.

Hawkins’ 3-pointer with 12:32 remaining in the game finished off a 16-6 run that gave Illinois State a 49-30 advantage, reducing the game’s remainder into a race to the final buzzer.

Akoon-Purcell said Muller delivered a pep talk at halftime.

“He knows what we’re capable of,” Akoon-Purcell said. “Not saying we were slacking (late in the first half, but he told us to pick it up.”

Guard Trey Freeman tallied a game-high 16 points for the Monarchs, but sank just 6 of 17 shots from the field. Ross added 15, going 6 of 7, but no one else managed more than four points.

Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said his team simply wasn’t on the same page.

“We have to play hard and together,” Jones said. “That doesn’t mean we were selfish, but we just have to do a better job. Illinois State is just a better team, and they’re further along than us in many ways. It’s never fun when we get beat like that.”

The Monarchs canned only 17 of 50 shots from the field, including 2 of 17 from the 3-point line, and were outrebounded 35-26. On the other hand, the Redbirds sank 49 percent of their field goals.

Old Dominion, which was attempting to become the event’s first repeat champion, will instead play for third place Monday night against Gardner-Webb. Illinois State plays Seton Hall for the championship.

“Seton Hall seems like a pretty good team,” Akoon-Purcell said, “but we’re ready.”

NOTES: This is the first-ever meeting between Illinois State and Old Dominion. … Redbirds C Reggie Lynch blocked a shot in the first half, giving him 100 for his career. The sophomore led the Missouri Valley Conference last year with 96 rejections. … This is the Monarchs’ third trip to the Paradise Jam. They fell to Wisconsin in the 2005 championship game and beat Xavier for the 2010 title.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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