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Join fellow alumni at the women’s and men’s Missouri Valley Conference

As the regular season winds down, the Illinois State men’s and women’s basketball teams have their eyes on the postseason, and both have positioned themselves for a possible bye in the first-round of the respective State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments in March. The men’s team will play March 6-9 in St. Louis, Mo., and the women’s team will play March 13-16 in St. Charles, Mo. For information about the two tournaments and to purchase tickets, visit the Go Redbirds Web site.

Redbird men’s basketball fans can purchase tickets for a pre-grame event at the Top Shelf within the Scottrade Center for $15 through the Redbird Arena Ticket Office by calling (309) 438-8000. Tickets to the event are limited, so contact the Ticket Office as soon as possible. A pre-game event will also be held prior to the women’s first basketball game at the Sheraton West Port Plaza. Those tickets may also be purchased through the Redbird Arena Ticket Office.

As of Feb. 20, the two programs had a combined 38 wins and were both ranked in the top-two of the Valley.   The Redbird women entered the Feb. 24 game against Missouri State with a 20-8 record, including a league-leading 10-2 mark in the MVC.  The Illinois State men’s team headed into its road tilt against Evansville (Feb. 20) 18-8 overall (10-5 MVC) and in sole possession of second-place in the conference standings.

The Illinois State women’s program is off to its best start ever with a 20-3 record through its first 23 games. ISU reached the 20-win plateau faster than any team in school history. It all started during the non-conference schedule when the Redbirds posted a 10-1 mark and set the Illinois State and Valley records for non-conference wins in a season. ISU picked up victories against Green Bay and South Florida, a pair of postseason teams from a year ago, and suffered its only loss to nationally-ranked DePaul. That winning trend continued into conference play as the Redbirds, who were picked to finish second in the conference, started out the Valley schedule 8-0 for the second-consecutive year and the third time in school history.

Senior guard Kristi Cirone continues to lead the Redbirds in scoring and assists, ranking high in the nation in both categories as well, but the Redbirds’ success in 2007-08 is a team effort. Senior guard Tiffany Hudson has more than doubled her scoring average from any of her previous three seasons. Sophomore guard Maggie Krick has transitioned well after her first season of college basketball and remains one of ISU’s biggest offensive threats. Sophomore forward Ashleen Bracey has morphed from a role player into a starter and leads the team in rebounding and field goal percentage. Bracey posted five double-doubles in the first 20 games and led the Redbirds in rebounding 16 times. Freshman guard Shala Jackson has been a key addition to the Redbird line-up, beginning the season as the team’s first option off the bench before working her way into a starting role.

The Redbird men’s basketball team will be looking to avoid its first MVC Tournament play-in game since the 2004-05 campaign.  Under the leadership of first-year head coach Tim Jankovich, ISU started the Valley slate with an unblemished 6-0 record.  The Redbirds strung together a nine-game winning streak, which included a dominating victory over in-state rival Southern Illinois (Jan. 5).  ISU entered the O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters game against Wright State (Feb. 24) with a 13-1 record inside the confines of Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena, with its only home loss being a three-point (73-70) setback against nationally-ranked and regular-season MVC champion Drake.  The Redbirds also defeated rival Bradley, 76-72, on Feb. 9, breaking a six-game losing streak against the Braves.

Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year candidate Osiris Eldridge is having a stellar second half of the conference slate, averaging 23.0 points per game in the month of February heading into the Evansville game.  Despite missing two games with a bruised shoulder, senior forward Anthony Slack has emerged as one of the league’s premier big men, leading the Valley in field goal percentage and ranking third in blocked shots.  Boo Richardson’s 2.44 assist/turnover ratio also topped the league.