Ben Weixlmann, a 2011 Saint Louis University graduate, covers SLU
men’s basketball and Atlantic 10 recruiting for BillikenReport.com on
the FOX/Scout.com network. Weixlmann’s work has been featured on many
national outlets, including MSN, FOX Sports and BleacherReport.
ST. LOUIS – Rewind just six days. Illinois State senior guard Tyler Brown had just gone for 28 points and nine rebounds in a losing effort on the road at Northern Iowa.
On Friday night with his career in the balance, Brown displayed an encore performance, but the evening yielded a much more favorable result as the sixth-seeded Redbirds defeated the UNI Panthers, 73-65.
Since Feb. 2, Brown has been one of the more prolific scorers in the country, averaging 24.4 points per game over the last 10 games.
The six-foot-four Brown didn’t waste much time showing off his scoring prowess to the crowd of 14,004.
He dribbled, shook his shoulders, stepped back and drained a deep three. Then did it again. Then twice more for good measure – all in the first five minutes. That 12-point outburst would set the tone for the next 35 minutes for the talented wing.
“I go into every game feeling that way,” he said. “I just want to be aggressive. I feel like it opens up a lot for my teammates.”
When UNI made defensive adjustments in the second half to force the ball out of Brown’s hands, he didn’t get frazzled. The aggressiveness that he displayed in the first 20 minutes turned to calculated calmness.
After all, Brown admitted that he wouldn’t have been in this position last year. Big plays in big games weren’t his forte. He would often force the issue.
“Last year, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into coming into this tournament,” he said. “Just having a year under my belt helped a lot, knowing what type of game it was going to be.”
When the double teams came nearly every possession in the second half, Brown turned over the reins to Redbird big man Jackie Carmichael. He patrolled both sides of the floor admirably, only to allow Brown to become the main attraction once again for the final two minutes to drive the ship home.
Perhaps the underachieving ISU squad, one that head coach Dan Muller said, in stretches, played at a level where “a high school would have beat us”, is hitting its stride at the right time.
Tomorrow’s matchup against the Wichita State Shockers will provide a chance for redemption. The Redbirds blew an eight-point lead at home with 36 seconds remaining on Feb. 17.
“It’s going to be a battle,” ISU head coach Dan Muller said. “Everybody knows their strengths. They’re unbelievable on the boards. They’re terrific defensively. . .It will be physical. It will be intense.”
An expected war of attrition tomorrow night wouldn’t have been possible without Brown’s exploits this evening.
With one loss signaling the end of his career, he made sure he would lace them up at least one more time.