NORMAL — Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh boasted that he “does not have to coach effort and attitude” with one of the nation's youngest teams that started three freshmen at Redbird Arena on Saturday night.
Illinois State coach Dan Muller couldn’t make that same claim, which didn't come as a surprise to anyone in the crowd of 3,831 that watched the Buccaneers topple the Redbirds, 64-62, in overtime.
“I'll play guys I feel are locked in and ready to play. I'm not playing the most talented guys,” said Muller, whose team dropped to 3-3. “However long it takes guys to get the message, if they ever do, that's what is going to happen. We're coaching way too much effort and focus.
“As we told our players if we're coaching effort and focus we're not coaching basketball. We'll fix that soon. I have to try to figure out the right buttons to push.”
Charleston Southern (4-2), picked to finish eighth in the 10-team Big South Conference, outhustled and outrebounded the Redbirds from the start. Even when ISU rallied from an eight-point deficit to take the lead in the second half, the Buccaneers battled back.
Christian Keeling scored on a drive to tie the game at 59-all with 31 seconds left. ISU's William Tinsley had an open 3-point look with two seconds left, but missed and ISU couldn't get another shot an extra five minutes was needed.
The Redbirds never led in overtime and missed all eight of their field goal attempts. With Charleston Southern ahead 63-62, Keeling made his first free throw, but missed the second with 9.2 seconds left as Tinsley grabbed the rebound and gave it to Evans.
Evans, who scored a game-high 26 points, said he was supposed to dribble past halfcourt and call a timeout. Instead, he drove the ball and took an off-balanced one-hander just inside the 3-point line that didn't fall as the horn sounded.
“Once we got the rebound he (Muller) was telling me to hurry up and in my head I was thinking go,” said Evans. “It was my fault.”
Evans thought he forced several shots in the second half and overtime. But Muller wasn't blaming his junior guard, who went 8 of 20 from the field.
“Offensively we couldn't do anything. Keyshawn felt he had to do too much. I understand why,” said Muller. “He was trying to make great plays, home run plays, instead of the right plays. But we weren't executing.”
Phil Fayne contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds as the Redbirds shot 33.3 percent from the field, going 8 of 33 on 3-pointers.
Charleston Southern grabbed a 47-40 rebounding advantage, scoring 34 of its points in the paint along with 22 second-chance points thanks to 18 offensive boards. Keeling, a sophomore guard, and freshman forward Phlandrous Fleming led the Buccaneers with 13 points each.
“We've been preaching since June defense and rebounding win, and now I have a trophy to prove that,” said Radebaugh. “For us to shoot 38 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3 and win on the road against a quality team like that gives me a lot of ammunition for my defense and rebounding gun that we shoot every day at them. They've really bought into it.”
ISU's Milik Yarbrough, who missed Wednesday's game against Quincy while serving a one-game suspension for violation of team rules, was used off the bench. The junior forward, who came in averaging 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists, scored two points with one rebound and two assists in 14 minutes.
Yarbrough didn't play the last 12 minutes of the game.
“No doubt I'm looking for something from Milik that he's not giving me, but it's not about me, he's not giving his team,” said Muller. “But he's not the only one in that mix. We had too many guys with that focus.”
ISU's problems were evident from the opening tip even when the Redbirds took a 19-12 lead. Charleston Southern rallied for a 30-28 lead late in the half before Evans' 16-foot jumper with six seconds left gave the Redbirds a 34-33 lead at the break.
The Buccaneers grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the first half that resulted in 14 second-chance points.
“They came out really strong,” said Fayne. “We didn’t come out like we usually do in the first half.”
The second half was more of the same. The Buccaneers opened a 50-42 lead with 10 minutes left before the Redbirds went on a 15-5 run to take a 57-55 lead on Evans' 14-foot jumper with 4:52 left. But Fayne’s basket off a Taylor Bruninga high-low feed with 3:28 left was ISU’s last of the game.
“The first four minutes of the second half was probably the most important,” said Evans. “Coach got into us at the 16-minute mark and we played a lot harder. But you can’t play 16 minutes and expect beat a team, especially how together they were.”
The rebounding numbers were one of the most disappointing things, according to Muller.
“I thought we would outrebounded this team. They outscrapped us,” said Muller. “They got long rebounds, loose balls. They were no bigger or taller than we are. You could really see the competitive balance right there with their team. When you’re not focused and ready to compete you’re usually a step slow.”
The Redbirds travel to face Nevada at 9 p.m. (CT) Wednesday.