ST. LOUIS — When Keyshawn Evans went down in pain after sinking a 3-pointer Friday night, his four teammates on the Scottrade Center floor at the time gathered around him as if they were a medical team.
Soon they dispersed when the man Evans needed most, Illinois State athletic trainer John Munn, arrived on the scene. Yet, before the other Redbirds left Evans’ side, they were smiling.
It was a good indication Evans would be OK, and that ISU would be as well in a hard-earned 77-70 quarterfinal victory over Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Evans had landed awkwardly on his right foot after hitting the 3 from the left wing, turning his ankle. The shot gave ISU a 54-47 lead with 9:26 left.
Some quick treatment on the bench by Munn had the junior guard back in the game soon and Evans helped extend the Redbirds’ season for at least another day.
“I don’t want to go home. I knew I had to be out there on the court,” Evans said while getting treatment from Munn in the ISU locker room afterward. “I was going to play regardless, so … tape it up and go.”
Does that mean Evans will be in the starting lineup for Saturday’s 5 p.m. semifinal against Southern Illinois?
"Oh yeah,” he said. “No question about that. I’ll play tomorrow.”
Asked about Evans’ injury, ISU coach Dan Muller smiled and said, “Keyshawn is just dramatic.”
Evans twice has missed time this year with a bone bruise on his left knee, which now is protected by a brace. When Evans grabbed his ankle, Muller was relieved.
“I knew it wasn’t his knee,” Muller said. “Legit, he’s fine. Maybe it’s a little tweak, but he’s OK.”
Then the Redbird coach added, “He likes the attention.”
Muller’s team will be playing Saturday largely because of its defensive effort and the fact its “big three” of Milik Yarbrough, Phil Fayne and Evans played … well, big. Yarbrough had 24 points, Evans 17 and Fayne 16.
The biggest of the “big” was Yarbrough, who after a foul-plagued first half scored 17 in the second half. He also had five assists and seven rebounds.
“He’s my Player of the Year,” Evans said. “When we have him out there it makes a big difference. He draws so much attention it makes it easier for everyone else. We make our shots here and there, but when we’ve got him dishing it around and scoring, it makes us a way better team.”
Redbird junior William Tinsley referred to Yarbrough as “our Michael Jordan,” adding, “When he’s playing well we’re going to feed off of his energy. He played his tail off tonight.”
At the other end, the Redbirds held Indiana State star guard Brenton Scott to an 0 for 14 shooting night, including 0 for 12 from 3-point range.
Evans credited Madison Williams and Matt Hein for much of the defense on Scott, who along with his teammates torched the Redbirds, 84-54, in their January meeting in Terre Haute, Ind.
“It all comes from our preparation,” Williams said. “Obviously they’re a good team … some great players. We had to lock in when we were preparing to come out there and try to defend their sets.
“We just played hard today. We played good defense against a great team. That was a credit to our preparation and our focus.”
Hein agreed, saying, “I thought we all stuck together. Our focus and attention to detail was on point. If we can cut down on some of the mistakes, I think we can win this thing.”