NCAA Basketball: Illinois State upsets South Carolina 69-65 in Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Cold shooting and a bevy of fouls marked an ugly game, but Illinois State did just enough to hang on to advance to the semifinals.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois State upsets South Carolina 69-65 in Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Malik Yarbrough drives to the basket in Myrtle Beach/Photo: Joshua S. Kelly/USA Today Sports
Illinois State
69 65
South Carolina

Milik Yarbrough had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists to help Illinois State beat South Carolina 69-65 in the quarterfinals of the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Keyshawn Evans added 17 points for the Redbirds as they never trailed. The tournament was scheduled for the coastal city of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, but damage from Hurricane Maria forced it to the campus of Coastal Carolina in Conway.

Beatty tries to drive around Illinois State's Phil Fayne/Photo: Joshua S. Kelly/USA Today Sports
Beatty tries to drive around Illinois State's Phil Fayne/Photo: Joshua S. Kelly/USA Today Sports

Cold shooting first half for Gamecocks

South Carolina was brutal from the field in the opening 20 minutes, shooting just 7 of 30, Illinois State's active zone defense frustrating the Gamecocks. They didn't make their first field goal until almost six minutes into the game.

The Redbirds didn’t use the zone in their season-opening 98-87 loss to Florida Gulf Coast. Evans had confidence the defense would work no matter what South Carolina tried.

"We weren't really worried about anything they were doing (to attack the zone)", he said. "We know if they're setting ballscreens, we're getting over ballscreens regardless of what they're going to do. We're not going to let them drive, we're going to move when they kick it."

“We never got inside the zone,” said Gamecocks coach Frank Martin.“And when we threw it to 5 feet, our bigs couldn’t score. We got the ball in there, and our bigs couldn’t score.

“Our guards never drove the zone. They just kept passing it around the zone, that’s to (Illinois State’s) advantage.”

“They had a wide zone,” said Hassani Gravett, who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “I feel like we worked the ball around, we just didn’t attack.”

Kotsar (l.) and Beatty (r.) trip Illinois State's Madison WIlliams (c.)/Photo: Joshua S, Kelly/USA Today Sports
Kotsar (l.) and Beatty (r.) trip Illinois State's Madison WIlliams (c.)/Photo: Joshua S, Kelly/USA Today Sports

Foul-fest in Myrtle Beach

The teams combined for 52 fouls with three South Carolina players fouling out. Chris Silva, Maik Kotsar and David Beatty all were disqualified while the only Redbird to foul out was forward Taylor Bruninga. "All we did was foul,”  lamented Martin.

Silva, the star of the team, fouled out with 5:25 left in the game. The 32 fouls whistled on the Gamecocks led to 28 points for Illinois State, 14 of those by Yarbrough. The Redbirds needed all of those 28 points from the line as they shot just 36 percent from the field.

South Carolina rallies to tie game, Illinois State responds

Despite five South Carolina players beginning the second half with two fouls, the Gamecocks had their chances. Down 11 early in the second half, they tied the game twice before the 10-minute mark.

A Frank Booker 3 got the Gamecocks to within one with 3:13 left, but the Redbirds responded with a 9-2 run to create enough separation. Evans hit a free throw with four seconds left to make it a two-possession game and seal the victory.

“I don’t care what you do defensively,”  Martin said. “the object of the game is get the ball between two defenders on offense. On defense, the object of the game is don’t let the ball get between two defenders.

“We never got it between two defenders, they got it between two defenders every time they wanted to. They won.”