NORMAL — Two early fouls made Jackie Carmichael miss most of the first half Sunday. Later, the Illinois State sophomore tweaked an ankle he injured in the preseason and sat out the final eight minutes as a precaution.
Those lengthy stretches of idleness did not keep Carmichael from impacting the Redbirds’ 92-64 season-opening basketball victory over Southern Illinois Edwardsville at Redbird Arena.
The 6-foot-9 forward had 18 points and five rebounds in only 13 minutes. Nine points came in the first four and a half minutes, sparking ISU to a 14-2 lead before a crowd of 4,235.
“Oh my gosh. I had not looked at the minutes,” ISU coach Tim Jankovich said when asked about Carmichael’s efficiency. “Obviously, he’s an exceptional athlete.
“I don’t think he is close to playing like he will this year. I don’t think he’s comfortable yet at all (because of time missed with the ankle). I very much look forward to when he looks like he’s kind of found the flow and found his rhythm.”
Carmichael looked plenty good to SIU Edwardsville coach Lennox Forrester, who said simply, “He’s a stud.”
“He was so hard to guard in the fact he can face you up, put the ball on the floor, take it to the basket, he has fade-away left and right … he was incredible,” Forrester said.
Carmichael, who said afterward his ankle was “not too bad,” went 7 of 10 from the field and made 4 of 5 free throws. He hit his first four shots while the Redbirds were sinking their first six.
“We wanted to come out with a higher intensity,” Carmichael said. “We felt we didn’t come out with high intensity against Quincy (in an exhibition game). They kind of threw the first punch.
“We kind of emphasized this week in practice of throwing the first punch and getting off to a fast start.”
Senior forward Blake Mishler also scored a career-high 18 points for the Redbirds, who ended at 52 percent from the field (28 of 54) and made 33 of 36 free throws (92 percent).
“That’s unbelievable,” Jankovich said of the free throws. “I will go on record to say that we will not probably shoot 92 percent for the year. I would be thrilled if we’re in the 70s.”
After going 16 of 30 from 3-point range against Quincy, ISU attempted only 10 and made three. Forwards Carmichael, Mishler and Tony Lewis (10 points, 6 rebounds) accounted for half of the points.
“I’m glad to see we could completely get away from someone without relying on the 3-point shot,” Jankovich said.
Mishler said the Redbirds “talked a lot about getting the ball inside,” but added, “I think it just came in the flow of the game. Last game we hit a lot of 3s and this game we found our edge in the post.”
Sophomore guard Trey Blue added 14 points for ISU, which led 46-33 at the half and outrebounded the Cougars 38-28 behind guard Justin Clark’s career-high nine.
Guard Corey Wickware led SIU Edwardsville (0-2) with 25 points, including 20 in the first half. The Cougars played without 6-6 junior Mark Yelovich, their leading scorer the past two years who injured a foot late in Friday’s loss to Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.