NORMAL — There will be more defensive resistance in games than during Friday night's annual Redbird Hoopfest. That goes without saying.
Yet Milik Yarbrough finding Phil Fayne soaring near the rim could become a common sight for Illinois State's men's basketball team this season.
"This is my connect right here," said Yarbrough, pointing at Fayne. "I know where he's at."
Fayne scored 12 points — three on dunks off Yarbrough assists — as the Red team beat the Gray, 31-21, during a 10-minute scrimmage to conclude activities before a crowd of 2,114 at Redbird Arena that also included crowning the homecoming king and queen.
Hannah Green led the way with nine points as the Black squad edged the Red, 12-10, during the women's seven-minute scrimmage.
"If we keep her healthy, I think she'll be a big surprise in our conference," said first-year women's coach Kristen Gillespie of Green, a 6-foot senior forward. "She's really hard to guard. She's a multi-faceted player. She's emerged as our leader."
Gillespie was among several new faces to be introduced to fans on Friday. Before the scrimmage, Gillespie thanked the ISU administration and fans for making her feel welcome as she tries to turn around the women's fortunes.
"I feel so lucky to be here at a place and community that not only cares about athletics, but women's athletics and women's basketball," said Gillespie, who came from Division II Lewis. "That gives our staff so much motivation that we want to put a great product on the floor and get it back where it once was."
The ISU men lost four starters off last year's squad which tied for the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship and won a school-record 28 games.
Yarbrough, who sat out last season after transferring from Saint Louis, figures to be a key piece this season. He has more experience in Division I games than anyone on the roster after playing two seasons with the Billikens.
The 6-6 junior forward showed off his skillful ballhandling Friday, handing out four assists and smoothly running things for the Red team while also scoring four points.
"I had a meeting with Coach (Dan) Muller a couple days ago. He said I was playing good, but he's looking for more out of me," said Yarbrough. "He's on me at every practice hard. I have to run if I don't do something right. I know he's trying to benefit me."
By season's end, Muller believes Yarbrough should "pretty much do everything he wants to do."
"He's so good with the ball, on the perimeter and the post. He's such a gifted passer," said Muller. "We need him to have a great year for us to have a great year."
Another newcomer, 6-foot senior guard Jerron Martin, is a graduate transfer from Texas Southern. The left-hander scored eight points for the Red and also had three assists.
David Ndiaye, a 7-foot junior center, paced the Gray team with 10 points. Ridgeview High School graduate William Tinsley, a junior guard from Lake Land College, added eight points.
Like the men, the women had only 10 players available because of injuries.
Gillespie said forward Millie Stevens and guard Deja Turner were out with concussions. Sophomore guard Amaria Allen is recovering from hip surgery in May, but Gillespie hopes she will be cleared to practice next week.
The women actually shot the ball from the perimeter better than the men. They made four 3-pointers in their scrimmage, while the men were 2 of 23 outside the arc.
"You can tell they're processing a ton of information," said Gillespie. "All we can ask every day is for them to give great effort and buy in, and they've done that. I can't ask for anything more as a coach."
Green said newcomers such as freshman point guard Paige Saylor and forward Simone Goods, a junior college transfer, give the Redbirds a different look than last season when ISU finished 8-23.
"I hope they (the fans) saw a coach ready to give something new and really improve what needs to be improved," said Green. "On the court I hope they saw an offense that works for our personnel. Defense ... we went a little easy, but during the year they'll see a lot more consistency."