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Redbirds Defeat Salukis Despite Scoring Drought

Written by on January 15, 2019

NORMAL – The Illinois State Redbirds (10-8, 3-2 MVC) returned to Redbird Arena Tuesday night to defeat the Southern Illinois Salukis (9-9, 2-3 MVC) 59-58.

Both teams came out shooting in the first half by trading field goals. A three-pointer from Zach Copeland opened up the scoring for ISU under three minutes into the game. Copeland’s three-pointer was the first of five for ISU in the first half.

ISU forced 13 turnovers on the Salukis that they converted to 16 points. The Redbirds finished the half shooting 47% from the field and looked to build on a 37-25 halftime lead.

The Redbirds came out shooting in the second half, going on a 10-0 run that began with back-to-back three-pointers from Copeland. After a tip-in by William Tinsley and free-throws by Copeland, ISU had a 16-point lead on the Salukis with 16:27 remaining in the game.

The Redbirds tried to increase their 16-point lead with 12:55 to go, but SIU scored 18 straight points and the Redbirds trailed for the first time in the second half with just over seven minutes to go down 52-49. The Redbirds have had large leads in the past, but ISU has learned it’s hard to play with a lead in the MVC.

“A lot of times you do make a game out of it,” said head coach Dan Muller. “The good ones can sustain those good plays and effort and if it is a comeback it comes back to 6 or 8 as opposed to take the lead.”

After a nearly seven-minute scoring drought by ISU, a layup by Milik Yarbrough cut the deficit to a point. Yarbrough would later tie the game with a free-throw.

The Redbird defense stayed strong on the ensuing possession that ended up with a steal from Phil Fayne. Off the fast break, he found Keyshawn Evans on the left side who nailed a three-pointer that gave ISU a 58-55 lead with 1:42 to go.

After getting into foul trouble, SIU made three free throws that tied the game at 58 with 0:33 in the game. On the final ISU possession, Fayne’s layup was no good but was fouled. He made his final free throw to give the Redbirds a one-point lead with five seconds left.

“Everyday I put the work in for moments like that,” said Fayne. “My first thought is I miss the first one the second one’s definitely going in.”

The Salukis looked to hit the game-winning shot, but an error off of a pass sent the ball out of bounds, giving ISU a 59-58 victory over their MVC opponent.

The Redbirds will head to Indiana to take on the Evansville Purple Aces (8-9, 2-2 MVC) Saturday afternoon at one.

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