Tony Wills and DJ Clayton do a handshake before defeating Evansville 80-69

ST. LOUIS -- The Redbird bench stepped up when needed

Illinois State men’s basketball started the game off slowly, and substitutions came off the bench under three minutes in. Sophomore Keyshawn Evans and junior DJ Clayton took the court and made their mark.

Evans finished the game with 16 points, two assists and four steals. 

“Keyshawn was unbelievable tonight,” senior guard Tony Wills said. “He did a very good job off the bench. I felt that he gave us a big spark, so did DJ Clayton and Madison Williams. Then bench guys really stepped up, especially because the starters got off to a really slow start.”

Clayton also contributed 12 points, one steal and four rebounds.

“We just stayed focused and ready,” Clayton said. “Whatever coach needed us to do coming in the game, we tried to provide for the team.”

Because the bench was able to step up and produce, it allowed ISU’s usual top scorers to have a break, something key during a non-stop tournament.

“(Being able to rest players) is everything now, honestly,” Clayton said. “We just want to make sure that they’re ready. Everyone’s going to do what they can to make sure their body is ready. For them to play less minutes in the first game, that’s huge.”

The bench combined for a total of 30 points.

ISU fails to rebound

ISU is known for its strong rebounding prowess, but the `Birds struggled to keep the ball out of the hands of Evansville. After the first half, the Purple Aces led the Redbirds 21-11 in rebounds. 

“In recent games, we’ve been getting a lot of offensive boards,” sophomore forward Phil Fayne said. “We’ve got to get those offensive boards, go harder to the board and find those angles.”

Christian Benzon led the Purple Aces in rebounding with 10 while MiKyle McIntosh and Deontae Hawkins gave ISU five each. 

Evansville scored 13 second chance points because of ISU’s poor rebounding. The final tally of rebounds was 37-29 for Evansville.

Paris Lee limps off court with hurt ankle

Five minutes into the second half senior guard Paris Lee appeared to have injured his left foot during play.

He was able to make it off the court without assistance, but favored his right foot. Athletic trainer John Munn assessed the injury and Lee returned to the bench.

Lee returned to the game with ten minutes left in the half and appeared his usual self, scoring on his second possession back.

The team did not wish to comment. 

Beth Geistlinger is Sports Editor for The Vidette. She can be reached at vidette_ergeist@ilstu.edu Follow her on Twitter at @beth_geist

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