Upshaw hopes to give lift to struggling ISU men

2011-01-17T20:59:00Z 2011-01-18T20:30:01Z Upshaw hopes to give lift to struggling ISU menBy Jim Benson |
January 17, 2011 8:59 pm  • 

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Always listen to your mother. Zeke Upshaw has found that out to be true.

"I talk to my mom (Zena Reynolds) every day. She believes in me more than anybody," said Upshaw, a 6-foot-6 Illinois State redshirt freshman. "She constantly tells me to keep working hard and my time will come. I believe her whenever she says that."

After scoring a season-high nine points on Saturday, Upshaw might be seeing a lot more playing time. He figures to be off the bench early Tuesday when ISU tries to break a seven-game losing streak against Drake in a 7:05 p.m. Missouri Valley Conference basketball game at the Knapp Center.

Upshaw played only 24 minutes in ISU's first 13 games, with eight DNPs (did not play). He has been used for 45 minutes in the last five games, including 19 during Saturday's 59-54 loss to Evansville.

With ISU (8-10, 0-7 Valley) looking for any kind of spark, Upshaw's timing couldn't have been better. He came into the Evansville game with only six points to his credit.

"He's definitely earned more chances, for sure," said ISU coach Tim Jankovich. "He's been getting in games and not played poorly in any of them. For young players the first step is to be solid and let the game come to you, which he has. He played a very good game the other night."

Drake (7-11, 2-5) got a sneak peek into Upshaw's game. He wasn't afraid to drive the ball inside and also sank his first career 3-pointer. Jankovich said Upshaw's defense has been good all season.

"I had a chance to play and show my coach what I could do," said Upshaw. "I just wanted to help my teammates any way I can. I think that's going to keep going for me."

If Upshaw can build off his performance against Evansville, that would give ISU's struggling offense some much-needed life. The Redbirds have topped the 65-point barrier only once in the last 14 games.

"He (Jankovich) wants me to go out there and be aggressive," said Upshaw. "He never wants me to go out there and just pass the ball around. He has confidence in me to make plays."

What would also help out the Redbirds would be to cut down their turnovers. ISU committed a season-high 22 turnovers that led to 24 points against Evansville and was the difference in the game.

That came after 12 turnovers against Northern Iowa accounted for 22 points in a two-point loss.

"Yes, guys are pressing somewhat. It's only natural," said Jankovich. "At some time part of being a good player is making good decisions. That's what mature players do. They've been through the wars, recognize situations and understand the importance of possessions. We could use some better judgments."

Drake (7-11) is much like the Redbirds with young players being counted on heavily. The Bulldogs start three sophomores and freshman Rayvonte Rice, a Champaign Centennial High School product who is Drake's leading scorer with a 12.9 average. The Bulldogs have lost three straight and five of their last six.

"We have two days to prepare for an Illinois State team that is struggling a little bit, but will be very hungry when they come in," said Drake coach Mark Phelps after Saturday's loss to Wichita State. "Our guys need to match that intensity."

Sophomore guard Kenyon Smith has returned to practice for the Redbirds after missing the last three games with back spasms. However, Jankovich said it is doubtful Smith will play Tuesday.

Redbird essentials

Illinois State vs. Drake

Time: 7:05 p.m.

Site: Knapp Center, Des Moines, Iowa

Television: None

Radio: WJBC (AM-1230, FM-93.7)

Records: Illinois State 8-10, 0-7 Valley; Drake 7-11, 2-5

Series history/last meeting: ISU leads, 46-26 (ISU won 71-68 on Feb. 6, 2010)

About the Bulldogs: Drake was picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference in a preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors … The Bulldogs are 5-4 at the Knapp Center, losing their last two home games to Indiana State (62-57) and Wichita State (68-54) … The Bulldogs rank last in the Missouri Valley Conference in rebound margin (-7.9) and free throw percentage (.657) … Ryan Wedel is Drake’s top 3-point threat, making 42 of 102 attempts. His .412 percentage puts him sixth in the Valley ... Junior guard Frank Wiseler, who has started 10 games, is doubtful because of an Achilles’ injury.

Next: Sunday vs. Southern Illinois, 7:05 p.m.

Prediction: Drake 58, Illinois State 54

Probable starters

(Scoring, rebounding averages)


F – John Wilkins, 6-9, So. (8.6, 4.7); Jon Ekey, 6-7, Fr. (4.8, 4.3); C — Jackie Carmichael, 6-9, So. (10.7, 4.6); G – Austin Hill, 6-1, Sr. (9.2, 2.4); Anthony Cousin, 5-11, So. (6.7, 1.5).


F – Jordan Clarke, 6-8, So. (3.8, 3.8); Ben Simons, 6-8, So. (6.5, 1.5); C — Seth VanDeest, 6-11, So. (10.3, 4.9); G – Rayvonte Rice, 6-4, Fr. (12.9, 4.8); Ryan Wedel, 5-11, Sr. (10.3, 1.9).


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