Illinois State’s ‘Big 3’
Huge Production from Yarbrough, Fayne & Evans
(St. Louis, MO) – While Illinois State battles injuries and transition, three players are carrying the load. In Part Two of our interview with coach Dan Muller, we discuss those ‘Big 3’ and how Muller views this season’s Missouri Valley race.
Milik Yarbrough, Phil Fayne and Keyshawn Evans have been producing at a near historic rate. During Saturday’s win at Mississippi the three combined to score 66 points, and raised their combined season average to 51.8 points per game.
Despite Yarbrough and Fayne both fouling out and playing less than 30 minutes in the overtime, road upset, they both recorded double-doubles. Fayne and Yarbrough both grabbed ten rebounds, and Yarbrough scored 25 points, and Fayne 16. Evans joined Yarbrough with a team high 25 points and handed out seven assists.
But that is nothing new. The ‘Big 3’ all rank in the top six in the Valley’s scoring race. Evans is second to Butler’s Reed Timmer with a 19.2 points-per-game average. Fayne is fourth (16.8) and Yarbrough is sixth (15.8). But they do more than score.
Evans is second and Yarbrough third to Evansville’s Dru Smith in assists (4.6 and 4.5 to 5.5 assists-per-game) and trails only Indiana State’s Jordan Barnes in treys per game (3.6 to 4.1). Fayne is fifth in rebounding, while leading the Valley in offensive rebounding.
(Check Out Part One of our Interview with Dan Muller)
Yarbrough came up two assists short of a triple-double in the Mississippi win and swept this week’s MVC ‘Player and Newcomer of the Week‘ awards. Muller tells me that the former Saint Louis U player has been nearly unstoppable since their Charleston Southern game, where Muller had send a message to his 6’6 star.
Fayne was part of last season’s MVC ‘All-Newcomer Team‘ and hasn’t missed a beat during his junior season. Muller says the 6’9 forward demands a double team or he will do damage to the opposition. The sixth year head coach says Fayne and others made massive improvements during the offseason and that the Western Nebraska College transfer is the most consistent practice performer.
Evans may have had the biggest shoes to fill. With the graduation of Paris Lee and Tony Wills, the entire backcourt had to be rebuilt and last season’s team ‘most improved player‘ has elevated his game to unexpected levels. Lee was the ‘Larry Bird Award‘ winner and Evans is playing near that same level. Muller says despite Evans’ offseason shoulder problems, he has worked extremely hard and that work is bringing dividends for the 6′ point guard.
The 51.8 points per game scoring average for the ‘Big 3’ is the highest combined average for three Valley players since 1994.
While the Redbirds (5-6) have struggled against one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, (Realtimerpi.com ranks it 16th strongest strength of schedule), the Missouri Valley Conference is winning games at an amazing rate (.673 winning percentage). Two of the Redbirds wins have come against Southeastern Conference schools (South Carolina was the other).
Muller says no one could have predicted the great start by the conference’s teams and jokes that Wichita State was holding the league back.
Muller’s team hosts UIC tonight and opens Valley play at Evansville on Saturday.