NORMAL, Ill. - A season filled with postseason promise ended with a thud for Mount St. Mary's last night.
With their three-point shooters completely stifled by a sound Illinois State defense, the Mountaineers went down meekly in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, 73-49, before 5,869 at Redbird Arena.
The game was never really in doubt after the Redbirds scored 13 of the first 17 points to establish that they were on their home turf and get the crowd into the proceedings.
The Mount never pulled closer than five in the first half, 28-23, and never closer than 47-39 after halftime.
"This is a big disappointment," said senior guard Chris McGuthrie. "All we did this year doesn't really matter.
The Northeast Conference Player of the Year was 5-for-25 from the field, including 2-for-11 from beyond the three-point arc. As a result, the team shot 27 percent.
"You can tell when Chris senses it and feels it," said coach Jim Phelan. "He didn't look like that tonight."
Illinois State (21-11) surprised McGuthrie by guarding him with 6-foot-6 forward Dan Muller, the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
"Their whole defense was geared to stop anything in the lane," said McGuthrie. "They were sagging in there and I know we didn't make a lot of jumpers.
"They kind of got us with the matchups. I was expecting a 5-9 guy against me and they came on with the big man."
Mount St. Mary's (21-8) now goes home, while Illinois State advances to meet Wisconsin in Monday's second round.
If coach Jim Phelan's team did one thing well, it was play pressure defense. The Redbirds were harassed into 21 turnovers, but that success was not enough for Mount St. Mary's.
Illinois State ravaged the Mount on the backboards with a 53-30 advantage and was far more selective in its shots, sinking 53 percent from the field.
"We just couldn't make much out of the turnovers we got," said Phelan. "We just couldn't get anything to go down into the basket. When that happens, you've got serious problems."
The Mount had no inside offense whatsoever,with 6-11 Gerben Van Dorpe playing only 20 minutes and scoring one basket in the paint.
Consequently, McGuthrie and his long-range bombers were easier game for a physical, hustling team with a deeper bench.
"We were all blind [unable to shoot] at the same time," said Riley Inge, who led the Mount with 17 points. "And we got almost nothing in transition."
Forwards Rico Hill (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Muller (10 points, 13 rebounds) had double-doubles and all-MVC guard Maurice Trotter hit 8-for-12, mostly from mid-range, for 18 points.
The defeat was Mount St. Mary's second straight after a 15-game winning streak through the quarterfinals of the Northeast Conference tourney.
It wasn't the way Inge and McGuthrie wanted their careers to end, but they weren't distraught.
"I don't feel as bad as I did after we lost to Rider," said McGuthrie. "If we had to go out, I wanted to go out shooting."
The basket didn't have a lid. It just seemed that way last night.
MOUNT ST. MARY'S Hayden 3-9 0-1 8, Balistrere 2-3 0-0 4, Van Dorpe 3-8 0-0 6, Inge 6-19 4-4 17, McGuthrie 5-25 2-2 14, Bethel 0-1 0-0 0, Paige 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-1 0-1 0, Cheung 0-4 0-0 0, Kessler 0-0 0-0 0, Kelly 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-70 6-8 49.
ILLINOIS STATE Hill 8-12 0-0 16, Muller 4-8 0-0 10, Watkins 1-5 3-8 5, Trotter 8-12 2-2 18, Smiley 1-1 4-5 7, Garrett 0-1 2-2 2, Wright 0-0 0-0 0, Pierson 1-3 2-8 4, Cartmill 1-2 0-0 2, Cooper 2-4 0-0 5, Hansell 1-3 2-2 4, Gibbons 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-51 15-27 73.
HalftimeIllinois St. 36, Mount St. Mary's 23. 3-point goalsMount St Mary's 5-25 (Hayden 2-5, McGuthrie 2-11, Inge 1-5, Bethel 0-1, Cheung 0-1, Van Dorpe 0-2), Illinois St. 4-12 (Muller 2-4, Smiley 1-1, Cooper 1-2, Garrett 0-1, Cartmill 0-1, Trotter 0-3). Fouled outVan Dorpe. ReboundsMount St. Mary's 30 (Hayden 8), Illinois St. 53 (Muller 13). AssistsMount St Mary's 9 (Inge 4), Illinois St. 20 (Smiley 8). Total foulsMount St. Mary's 22, Illinois St. 14. A5,869.
Pub Date: 3/14/96