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The ‘Birds begin their quest for Arch Madness Glory

The ‘Birds begin their quest for Arch Madness Glory

During Thursdays annual Missouri Valley awards ceremony, junior Milik Yarbrough was named Valley Newcomer of the Year. (Photo courtesy GoRedbirds.com)

NORMAL – The Illinois State Redbirds begin their quest for a Missouri Valley Conference championship, tonight when they take on 6 seed, Indiana State Sycamores. The teams split the season series, each winning games on their home court, which was a trend in what turned out to be a crazy season in the Valley.

The Redbirds enter Arch Madness as one of the hotter teams in the conference, winning 6 of their last 9 games, as they are finally free of injuries. It was an up and down season for the ‘Birds as they had to fight through injuries for most of the season which resulted in the use of 13 different starting lineups throughout the season.

Finally healthy, the Redbirds head into tonight’s match-up led by their big 3, Milik Yarbrough, Phil Fayne, and Keyshawn Evans. Yarbrough, who was named MVC Newcomer of the Year on Tuesday to go along with his All-MVC First Team selection, leads the ‘Birds scoring almost 17 points per game. Fayne and Evans aren’t far behind as they are both averaging 15 points per game, making the Redbirds one of just four Division 1 teams to have three players averaging at least 15 points per game.

The Redbirds picked up an 84-80 overtime victory in their first meeting against the Sycamores. Yarbrough led the way for the ‘Birds, scoring 29 points and 10 rebounds. Fayne chipped in a double-double of his own, scoring 17 points and adding 11 rebounds. Taylor Bruninga and Matt Hein also played a key role in the victory as they combined to score 26 points.

The second meeting between the Redbirds and Sycamores did not go so well for ISU as they fell 84-54 in Terre Haute, Ind. The Redbirds struggled to get anything going, which plagued them the entire game. Fayne was the only Redbird to break double-digits as he finished with 13 points.

The Sycamores of Indiana State enter Arch Madness led by Second Team All-MVC guard Jordan Barnes and Third Team All-MVC guard Brenton Scott. Barnes enters tonight’s game averaging 17 points per game and Scott comes in averaging almost 15 points per game.

The Redbirds were fighting the injury bug in both meetings against the Sycamores, as Evans and Yarbrough were both limited. Finally healthy, the ‘Birds look to make a deep run in Arch Madness in hopes of bringing home not only a Missouri Valley Conference championship, but the automatic bid to the big dance.

Tip-off for tonight’s game is set for 8:30 p.m. listen to live coverage on 103.3 FM WZND beginning at 8:20 p.m.

Hector Carrion contributed to this story  

Hector Carrion

March 2nd, 2018

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