TERRE HAUTE —
Thirteen ranked teams have visited Hulman Center as an Indiana State opponent since it opened in 1973. Five walked away with their tails between their legs.
None have reached the heights that Wednesday’s opponent — No. 4 Wichita State — have scaled. The unbeaten Shockers are the highest-ranked team to ever visit Hulman Center.
Considering some of the iconic Missouri Valley Conference teams that have visited Hulman Center over the years — Hersey Hawkins-era Bradley teams, dominant 1980s Tulsa and Wichita State squads and early 2000s Southern Illinois dominators … to say nothing of in-state teams that have made visits to Terre Haute — WSU’s current standing is a compliment to how good the Shockers are.
But that doesn’t mean today’s Shockers are infallible. Far worse Sycamores’ teams than the current squad have faced longer odds against ranked teams and have come away with memorable victories.
“It’s only natural for 18-to-22 year-olds to be more excited and attentive when playing a ranked team. I’m not sure it means much between the lines, but there’s more excitement there you don’t have in other games,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
If the Sycamores need inspiration to draw upon for Wednesday’s game, each of ISU’s previous five wins over ranked teams at Hulman Center provides some raw material. From ISU’s brightest stars to forgotten Sycamores who stepped up with the spotlight on, there’s plenty to choose from.
As ever with the Sycamores, the wellspring of success against ranked teams at Hulman Center starts with the Larry Bird era.
ISU’s 91-63 destruction of the No. 12 Boilermakers on Nov. 28, 1977 was the first time ISU defeated a ranked opponent and is still tied for the highest-ranked opponent ever beat at Hulman Center.
Bird had 26 points and 17 rebounds, but gave credit to Leroy Staley and Richard Johnson, who held future NBA No. 1 draft pick Joe Barry Carroll to just 14 points. Johnson famously elbowed Carroll in the face during the contest and the future Golden State Warrior was never the same.
Despite Bird’s credit to Staley and Johnson, he stated his own it-ain’t-bragging-if-you-back-it-up swagger after ISU’s first win over a Big Ten team at Hulman Center.
“The only way they can stop me is to keep the ball away from me. If I get the ball, there’s no way they can stop me. I’ll get my shots,” Bird told the Tribune-Star.
If ISU seeks precedent for beating an unbeaten MVC team, as well as a player who stepped up at the right time, its 100-94 victory over No. 12 Tulsa on Feb. 2, 1985 provides the evidence.
John Sherman Williams had 32 points against a Nolan Richardson-coached Tulsa team that was 8-0 in the MVC at the time. Unsung hero Lee Moore scored five points in succession to give the Sycamores a late cushion they wouldn’t relinquish.
ISU has also beaten an unbeaten team overall. When No. 15 Butler visited Hulman Center on Dec. 9, 2006, the 10-0 Bulldogs had won the Preseason NIT with wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga.
But the Bulldogs were no match for the Sycamores in a 72-64 ISU victory. Point guard Gabe Moore had perhaps his best effort as a Sycamore. He scored 24 points and defended Butler guard A.J. Graves to distraction until Graves left the game with an eye injury.
ISU’s 72-67 victory over No. 18 Indiana on Dec. 6, 2005 showed what a team can do when it has defensive focus. David Moss and Tyson Schnitker co-led the Sycamores with 19 points, but it was the team defense on IU’s Marco Killingsworth and Robert Vaden (combined 22 points) that carried the day.
(For the record, ISU’s home win over Indiana in 2000 came when the Hoosiers were not ranked.)
But if the Sycamores want to look within themselves to know what they’re capable of, ISU’s most recent home win over a ranked team — last season’s 76-57 annihilation of No. 13 Creighton — is their source.
The Sycamores led by as much as 28 against the shell-shocked Bluejays. Doug McDermott was held to eight points, the only time a MVC foe held him to single digits for two seasons. It was one of the best single-game performances in ISU history.
Lansing would love to have a repeat at 8 p.m. Wednesday against the Shockers.
“I wish we could bottle that. It was a special night where we played very, very well for 40 minutes at both ends. We maybe caused them to not play as well as they’d like to. We’ll need that again on Wednesday,” Lansing said.
ISU’s five big ones
Indiana State has a 5-8 all-time record at Hulman Center against ranked teams. Here are those five victories in order of where opponent was ranked:
Nov. 28, 1977 — ISU 91, No. 12 Purdue 63
Feb. 2, 1985 — ISU 100, No. 12 Tulsa 94
Feb. 6, 2013 — ISU 76, No. 13 Creighton 57
Dec. 9, 2006 — ISU 72, No. 15 Butler 64
Dec. 6, 2005 — ISU 72, No. 18 Indiana 67