NORMAL — Phil Fayne, not feeling well with the flu, looked weary when he raised his arms with 2.8 seconds left in Wednesday night's overtime game at Redbird Arena.
His Illinois State teammates shared Fayne's fatigue, but were able to smile after the Redbirds outlasted Drake, 89-81, in a Missouri Valley Conference basketball game before a crowd of 5,028.
“They disrespected us the last time we played them,” said Milik Yarbrough, as Drake beat ISU by 25 in early January. “We came out with urgency and toughness. We're not getting swept by anybody. We came out with a lot of intensity. Everyone was not healthy, so me and Keyshawn (Evans) had to step up a little more and be a little more aggressive.”
ISU's “Big Three” of Evans, Yarbrough and Fayne combined for 61 points as the Redbirds improved to 16-13 overall and 10-7 in the Valley, tied for third place with Drake. ISU, which is 4-1 in overtime this season, travels to league champion Loyola for Saturday's 1 p.m. season finale.
Evans scored 23 points, making five 3-pointers. Yarbrough contributed 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Fayne added 16 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes after missing three games with a sprained ankle and then coming down with the flu along with Madison Williams.
“I kind of felt like myself today,” said Evans, who battled through cramps late in the game. “In the second half when I switched on to (Reed) Timmer, it gave me even more energy and got me more into the game. I felt really good, actually.”
Drake (16-14) was led by Timmer's 26 points. The senior guard missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left in regulation which could have won the game for the Bulldogs, instead forcing an extra five minutes tied at 69-all.
Evans’ 3-pointer put ISU ahead, 74-71, with 3:13 left. Evans then fed William Tinsley for a 3-pointer and set up Fayne for a three-point play as the Redbirds enjoyed an 80-72 lead with 1:46 left.
Drake closed within 84-80 on Graham Woodward's 3-pointer with 34.3 seconds left, but the Bulldogs couldn't get closer.
“We made a bunch of big plays to get a stop and tie it up in regulation,” said ISU coach Dan Muller. “To do what we did in overtime was awesome. We had a lot of guys fight through some sickness and pain and make big plays. That was a really good win for us.”
ISU shot 44.8 percent from the field and went 11 of 31 outside the arc. Drake made 36.8 percent of its field goal attempts and were 6 of 28 on 3-pointers. The teams battled to a 46-all rebounding draw.
Tinsley added nine points, 10 rebounds and a season-high four blocks for ISU. Williams didn't start after missing most of Tuesday's practice, but played 22 minutes with five points, three rebounds and two assists.
“What this team has been through, the adversity and injuries and sickness and guys in and out of the lineup, there's not a team in the league that has dealt with what this team has,” said Muller. “I'm proud of what the players have done through adversity and just different guys being ready no matter whose available that night.”
Woodward added 16 points off the bench for the Bulldogs, while Ore Arogundade had 16 points and C.J. Rivers 10. The Bulldogs, who came in shooting 77.6 percent at the line, hurt themselves by making 19 of 28 free throws.
The score was tied 11 times and there were 16 lead changes in the game.
“Obviously it was a great Valley game here tonight,” said first-year Drake coach Niko Medved. “It was two teams really fighting for something. We had our chances. We left quite a few plays out there on the table and had a lot of good looks from guys that didn't go down.”
Muller said Fayne, who missed the three previous games with an ankle injury, started throwing up in the afternoon.
“He went in the first time and had to come out after two minutes,” said Muller. “But I think once he got his second wind and settled down he was able to play longer. But to get a double-double and battle and get some big blocks, obviously he had a heck of a game.”
Yarbrough also passed the 1,000-point mark for his career late in regulation. He scored 530 points his first two seasons at Saint Louis before transferring to ISU, where he has scored 475 this season.
“I didn't even know that. That's cool,” said Yarbrough. “That's pretty surprising. That makes me feel good ... I'm more concerned about the win, to be honest. We're shooting for second place and go to St. Louis (for next week's MVC Tournament) and try to win it and get the automatic (NCAA) bid.”
Drake used a 14-0 run to take a 27-17 lead with 7:42 left in the first half. Evans helped out a sputtering ISU offense, scoring seven points to pull the Redbirds within 31-29 at halftime.
While Evans went 3 of 7 from distance in the first half, everyone else in the game was 2 of 21. Drake hit 1 of 10 outside the arc and ISU was 4 of 18. The Bulldogs made up for it by going 8 of 9 at the line, while the Redbirds were 1 of 4.
Timmer had a chance for two four-point plays early in the second half. He missed the free throw on the second as Drake led, 42-41, with 15:56 left.
The lead changed hands three times before ISU took control. Fayne scored two baskets on a dunk and layup off nice feeds from Evans and Elijah Clarance that started an 8-2 run. Isaac Gassman's 3-pointer gave the Redbirds a 56-50 lead with 10:20 left.
Drake responded. Timmer's three-point play with 7:48 left gave the Bulldogs a 58-56 lead.
The game was tied three more times before Timmer scored on a short bank with 1:52 left to put Drake in front, 69-67, with 1:52 left. But Timmer missed the free throw and Yarbrough's layup on an Evans feed forced a 69-all tie with 13 seconds left.