Illinois State’s game at Missouri State should’ve been another close win in the Redbirds’ increasingly rocky conference stint.
Needing a win against Missouri State and a Loyola loss to in order to tie atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings, the Redbirds clung to a 65-63 with 7.8 seconds to go on Sunday evening. Illinois State had led for the entirety of the second half and held off two Missouri State runs, so fending off a third surge from the Bears wasn’t out of the question.
All Matt Chastain and the Redbirds needed to do was safely inbound the basketball.
Well, Illinois State did the opposite of that. Enter Missouri State senior Jarred Dixon:
The play couldn’t have happened without Keandre Cook’s defensive efforts. Although Cook couldn’t quite haul in Chastain’s inbounds pass, his presence of mind to pick off the lazy inbounds pass sparked the ensuing chaos, which looked more like football players scrambling to recover a fumble and less like a broken basketball play.
Eight of the 10 players on the court had a chance to scoop up the loose ball and end the game, but Missouri State’s Jarred Dixon secured possession with a little over a second to play. His half-court, desperation heave with 0.2 seconds to go, by some miracle, banked in, capping off a 13-point, three-rebound effort.
In a sense, that play was a microcosm of the Redbirds’ struggles this season. Despite coming into the season with high expectations — we picked them tenth in our Other Top 25 preseason rankings, while they were second in the MVC’s preseason poll — the Redbirds have floundered with five losses to sub-150 KenPom teams. Close games haven’t been their strong suit either; Dixon’s half-court shot sent the Redbirds to 2-3 in conference games decided by three points or fewer.
But for now, enjoy another angle of Dixon’s late-game heroics, courtesy of Missouri State basketball’s Twitter account:
Missouri State can go for a sweep of the Redbirds at Redbird Arena on Feb. 27. The win brought the Bears to 13-12 on the season and 7-5 in conference play.