ISU's Bryant Allen bears down on defense. (Photo by B Corbin/WJBC)
By Bryan Bloodworth
NORMAL - Illinois State’s Bryant Allen returned to practice Monday prior to the team leaving for Missouri State, but the junior guard is still listed as questionable for Tuesday night’s Missouri Valley Conference game.
“He’s questionable at best,” Muller said on the league’s media conference call Monday.
Allen missed Saturday’s 70-60 loss to Northern Iowa with an ankle injury that actually occurred two years ago when he broke it while playing football for the University of Minnesota.
“He just has a bad ankle,” Muller continued. “He didn’t turn it or anything. It just flares up from time to time. We missed him, but we can’t use that as an excuse. When guys go down other people have to step up.”
Muller admitted Allen’s absence affected the team’s energy level in its third straight loss to drop its overall record to 9-6.
“We had energy problems, emotional and confidence problems as opposed to other things,” said Muller. “BA is the guy who affects that the most on our team because he is our emotional leader and energy leader.
“That had an impact, but it’s not an excuse because it certainly happens. If BA plays or not, we have to play with the same energy. And, obviously, he shoots the ball and we didn't shoot it well from 3. That had an effect.”
Muller said when the Redbirds played like they did against Northern Iowa, there are plenty of things to fix.
“But it starts with individual mindsets,” he added. “If the mind is not right, then you’re not going to play well. We’ve got to get our minds right.”
Despite not shooting well in its last few games, Muller is more concerned about defense.
“We need to fix our defense,” he said. “Defense will lead to transition baskets. We’re not guarding with the same urgency we did in most of the non-conference season. Any good team starts with defense.
“We have guys who aren’t playing well right now and who aren’t shooting well, but that’s part of it. Shooting comes and goes, but the defensive intensity has to remain consistent. If we guard well, then we’ll have more confidence and our offensive flow will be better.
“We’re trying to get back on track. I’m confident we’ll get things going, but not happy with where we are at right now.”
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org