Missouri State guard Jarred Dixon (11) is tightly defended by Illinois State's Keyshawn Evans in a game last season at Redbird Arena. Dixon and the Bears are unbeaten in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 3-0 mark ahead of Sunday's 1 p.m. game against ISU at Redbird Arena.

DAVID PROEBER, The Pantagraph

NORMAL — The lesson, Milik Yarbrough and Keyshawn Evans insist, was learned. 

Illinois State basketball coach Dan Muller certainly hopes so.

The Redbird players say they overlooked Drake on Wednesday night and paid the price while being routed, 87-62. ISU realizes it must be ready from the start at 1 p.m. Sunday when Missouri Valley Conference favorite Missouri State ventures into Redbird Arena (CBS Sports Network).

"We have to come out with a sense of urgency and play hard like we usually do," said Yarbrough, whose streak of five straight 20-point plus games was snapped Wednesday. "It was a learning lesson and will help us in the long run. I feel that's one of the games that's going to change a lot for us."

Evans, who scored 13 points against Drake after missing the previous game with a bruised knee, knew tough practices awaited the Redbirds.

"It helps get the mojo going a little bit and gets you to focus a little bit more," said Evans. "He (Muller) doesn't care if we make or miss shots. but one thing he won't go for is not competing. We understand that 100 percent. We'll definitely go out and compete with more passion and urgency."

ISU (8-7, 2-1 MVC) had a four-game winning streak broken against Drake. The Redbirds won those games by a combined 14 points, including two in overtime.

Muller said he knew there were "some slippage things we were not doing well," but didn't harp on those with his team.

"I wanted to build confidence and celebrate the wins where I should not have let the poor play go, and I did. That's on me," he said. "That won't happen again this year. I did contribute to our lack of being ready to compete. We had OK practices, but I settled for OK and I shouldn't have."

Wednesday wasn't the first time this season the Redbirds have fallen way behind. It also happened during losses to Boise State, Nevada and Brigham Young.

After two of those defeats, the Redbirds bounced back the next game with a win. The other was a six-point loss to Murray State when Phil Fayne was out of town attending his grandfather's funeral.

Missouri State (13-3) is coming off one of its best games of the season. The Bears dominated Northern Iowa most of the way before faltering at the end in a 62-55 victory Thursday to improve to 3-0 in the Valley, one of two league unbeatens along with Drake.

Alize Johnson, a 6-foot-9 senior forward who was the MVC Preseason Player of the Year, put together his second 20-20 game of the season. Johnson contributed 24 points and 20 rebounds.

Missouri State coach Paul Lusk has a veteran eight-man rotation, composed of all seniors and juniors. Muller sees a lot of last year's Redbirds in the Bears, especially on the defensive end where Missouri State allows 61.4 points per game and holds opponents to 38 percent field goal shooting (11th best in the country) and 30.3 percent outside the arc.

"From film, watching Missouri State they're not a good defensive team, they're a great defensive team. They compete and play hard," said Muller. "Paul's got that team playing together, fundamentally sound and offensively they're extremely dangerous, and they kill you on the boards."

Missouri State averages plus-9.4 on the boards, which ranks ninth in the country.

One of the few bright spots for ISU on Wednesday was David Ndiaye. In only his second game after recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, the 7-foot junior had eight points and seven rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals in 18 minutes.

"He's getting better in every aspect of the game and as he does his role will expand," said Muller. "In the meantime he can rebound, protect the rim and finish around the basket until he gets comfortable with everything else."

Missouri State has lost six straight at Redbird Arena, including a 74-71 decision in overtime last season.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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