Team triumphed over talent in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game.
But it was not because of a lack of effort by said talent.
And by talent I mean Illinois State guard Osiris Eldridge.
After a scoreless first half that saw the Valley's preseason player of the year chuck shots left and right and come up empty, Eldridge played like a man possessed. He scored a game-high 21 points and drained five three-pointers, all in the second half. A couple of "O's" three-balls came from beyond the NBA's 3-point line that was painted on the Scottrade Center floor.
Three things came to my mind during Eldridge's stellar performance:
- The MVC has to deal with this guy for one more year. Good luck with that.
- He reminded me of what Drake did last year. He was a "sticker shooter" ... a player that could make a shot from the stickers on the floor.
- It made me yearn for the days when Jamaal Tatum used to do that for SIU.
Yet, his performance was not enough to propel the Redbirds to a win which would have secured the team's first auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament since Rico Hill wrecked havoc on his Valley foes in 1998.
Despite the "M" on my credential, I became a fan of Osiris Eldridge as he drained jumper-after-jumper and made defensive stops one after another. Still wearing a pair of retro Air Jordans, Osiris invoked the memories of His Airness as he soared and scored when his team needed it the most.
But unlike the six storybook endings M.J. wrote in Chicago which ended with a Grant Park rally, Eldridge came up painfully short.