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3 Things: Illinois State and Wichita State impress in a big night in the Missouri Valley

Can the Redbirds challenge the Shockers?

NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-Evansville vs Illinois State
MiKyle McIntosh led ISU with 21 points
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Valley Conference teams played their third conference games Wednesday night and we’ve already learned a lot about the league race. The home teams won four of Wednesday’s five games, and two of them went into overtime.

What did we learn?

Milton Doyle is playing up to his enormous potential.

While battling injuries during his first three years at Loyola, Doyle has flashed moments of brilliance, but the inconsistency of his health has kept him from fulfilling the lofty expectations that came along with him after he de-committed from Kansas.

This season, Doyle has been a box score stuffer and during Wednesday’s 77-66 win over Northern Iowa, Doyle recorded a “triple-ocho,” scoring 13 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out eight assists. Time after time, Doyle would drive and kick to open teammates, or continue his high-level shooting.

The 6’4 wing made five of 10 shots to improve his season shooting percentage to .481. The Chicago native is averaging 14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists for the 11-5 Ramblers. Coach Porter Moser believes Doyle’s will to win is exemplary.

“I know his mind set is good. He’s more about the right things, more than at any time in his career,” he said on a conference call earlier this week. “One of his best skills is his passing ability. He can really pass the ball and create shots for others and we just need to do that more. We’re counting on him. He’s a really good player and I’m looking forward to him helping us turn it around.”

Indiana State is going to grind its way into ‘coin-flip’ games.

The Sycamores (6-9, 0-3) played in their fifth overtime game of the season on Wednesday and their second in three MVC contests. The 80-74 loss at Southern Illinois (9-7, 2-1) ran their record in games decided by six points or fewer to 4-6.

Head coach Greg Lansing says the Sycamores’ basketball IQ has to get better.

“Our basketball IQ down the stretch has to get better,” he said. “We have to concentrate better. The guys are playing their tails off. They don’t give in and they keep fighting and they keep competing. That’s just the way it’s going to be, so we might as well get used to it.”

Illinois State has the right ingredients to challenge Wichita State.

Illinois State’s (11-4, 3-0) 74-71 overtime victory over Missouri State (11-5, 2-1) pushed its home record to 8-0 for a team that starts three seniors and two juniors. Four of those players average double-digits in scoring.

Coming into the game, the Redbirds were second in the Valley in shooting percentage defense, holding their last three opponents under 60 points, and their last five opponents to less than 32 percent from the field. Dan Muller’s team has put in some extra work on the defensive end.

“There is this crazy thing called playing harder,” Muller said. “They’ve bought into what we’ve been selling. We’ve put a lot more time into practice, but there’s no secrets, it comes down to competing.”

Dating back to last season, the Redbirds have won 14 straight home games. With five of their top nine players standing 6’6 or better, ISU is a matchup problem for most Valley teams. Their Jan. 14 game against Wichita State will be must-see TV.