TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The foul situation didn't sit well with Illinois State basketball coach Dan Muller on Wednesday night at the Hulman Center.
Neither did his team’s defense at the end of regulation and overtime.
Tre’ Bennett drove down the right side of the lane and scored on a layup with 2.2 seconds left to lift Indiana State to a 71-70 victory over the Redbirds in a tense Missouri Valley Conference game before a crowd of 4,335.
“Credit Indiana State. They made a lot of plays and we couldn't make enough,” said Muller. “I’m not happy, but that’s the way it goes.”
ISU (10-7, 2-3 MVC) nearly pulled it out despite having Reggie Lynch, DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell and MiKyle McIntosh foul out. There were a combined 48 fouls. No Indiana State players fouled out.
Daishon Knight, who carried the Redbirds in the five-minute extra session, sank an 18-foot jumper to give his team a 70-69 lead with 19 seconds left.
Indiana State coach Greg Lansing called a timeout with 8.4 seconds left. The inbounds pass was nearly thrown out of bounds before Khristian Smith retrieved it 35 feet from the basket. Bennett, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, got a loose ball near the free throw line and charged hard toward the basket.
“I had no idea the ball was going to come to me, actually,” said Bennett. “It got tipped around. I was trying to be aggressive and make sure we didn't lose the ball. Somehow I came up with the ball. I tried to get to the rim and at least draw a foul and not settle for a jump shot.”
Bobby Hunter’s long heave at the buzzer hit the backboard and bounced away as the Sycamores (9-8, 5-0) stayed atop the league race with Wichita State.
Smith, who beat ISU with a late jumper in Normal, saved Indiana State at the end of regulation. He was fouled with 5.7 seconds left and sank two free throws for a 62-all tie. ISU didnt get a good look and Paris Lee’s long attempt was wide.
The Hulman Center curse continued for ISU, which hasn't won here since 2007.
“We just couldn't get a stop at the end,” said 6-foot-3 Redbird guard Tony Wills, who was forced to guard 6-9 Justin Gant. “I felt we were just one step short and couldn't make the extra effort.”
Knight gave plenty of effort. After a slow start, the senior guard scored 16 of his game-high 21 points after the intermission. That included seven points in overtime.
“I felt my guys were setting screens and getting me open,” said Knight. “They got me good shots and it was there and I took the shots.”
Akoon-Purcell added 11 points and six rebounds for the Redbirds. Lynch had eight points and eight rebounds. ISU shot 36.5 percent from the field (23 of 63) and committed 17 turnovers, but enjoyed a 46-28 rebounding advantage and had 18 offensive boards.
The Redbirds, who trailed 31-30 at halftime, fell behind by 10 with 8:22 left after Bennett’s 3-pointer.
ISU stormed back. The Redbirds went on a 15-1 run, capped by Hunter’s 3-pointer, to gain a 56-52 lead with 4:14 left. ISU had a chance to go ahead by six, but Lynch was knocked to the ground trying to score on a putback.
“That play right there could have been the game,” said Muller.
Brenton Scott scored on a drive on the other end and got fouled. He completed the three-point play to give the Sycamores some hope.
Knight made two free throws with 21.6 seconds left to give the Redbirds a 62-60 lead. But Smith was fouled driving to the basket and forced overtime with two free throws.
“We were up at the end of regulation and overtime and had a chance to win and could not get a stop,” said Muller. “That’s on us and our inability to get a big stop right there. The same thing happened to us the last time we played them. We could not get a big stop at the end of regulation.”
Center Jake Kitchell, who made a couple 3-pointers early, paced Indiana State with 15 points. Scott added 13 points, while Bennett had 12. The Sycamores shot 38.3 percent from the field (18 of 47), but made 27 of 33 free throws to the Redbirds’ 18 of 23.
“We were very fortunate to win that. I know it was an overtime game and there’s a lot of little plays that can go either way,” said Lansing. “They’re really good. I’m was just sitting in the locker room thinking we've beat those guys twice. That team has tremendous talent and will be in the race until the end.”
ISU returns to action at 4 p.m. Saturday when it entertains rival Bradley at Redbird Arena.