St. Louis — The Indiana State men’s basketball program waited nine long years to play a postseason game.
The wait to see how competitive the Sycamores would be in their postseason return didn’t take nearly as long.
Saint Louis dominated ISU from the opening tip and cruised to a 63-54 victory in the opening round of the College Basketball Invitational at Chaifetz Arena on Tuesday.
The Sycamores’ season ended and the Billikens wasted no time greasing the Sycamores’ skids. SLU had a 10-point lead three minutes into the game and the Sycamores played catch-up the rest of the way, never really getting into a position where the Billikens felt threatened.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t play well early. We played better as we went along. We didn’t play our best, we missed our free throws, we didn’t come up with a lot of loose balls. To beat a team on the road, you have to do those things,” ISU coach Kevin McKenna said.
No Sycamores reached double-figure scoring as Rashad Reed, Dwayne Lathan, Koang Doluony, Isiah Martin and Aaron Carter all had eight points.
By contrast, SLU (21-11) rode Kwamain Mitchell (19 points) and big center Willie Reed (17 points, eight rebounds) as both players were tough for the Sycamores to contend with.
ISU (17-15) was behind the 8-ball from the opening tip. SLU began the game on an 11-1 run as the Billikens crispness on the offensive end was contrasted by the bewildered Sycamores. Excellent perimeter defense by the Billikens — notably from Mitchell — played a big part, but the Sycamores also appeared badly out of sync.
“It was one of those nights we had trouble with during the season where we were sluggish and we couldn’t get going,” Lathan said. “We were making mistakes and we compounded them with more mistakes. We just couldn’t get over that hump and find our rhythm.”
ISU scored on just nine of its first 29 possessions as the Billikens built a 32-14 lead. During that stretch, ISU shot 5 of 20 from the field and had eight turnovers. The Billikens converted the ISU giveaways into 11 points on its end to that point in the game. SLU eventually scored 23 points off ISU turnovers.
ISU’s woes weren’t limited to its inability to score. SLU’s Willie Reed dominated the paint as he had 13 points and four rebounds at halftime. At one point, SLU had a 16-2 edge with points in the paint. SLU finished with a 39-36 rebounding edge, but the Billikens scored 32 points in the paint.
ISU twice got its deficit to single-digits in the second half, but couldn’t get closer than eight points.
ISU finished its season 17-15, its best record since 2001. Reed, Josh Crawford and Harry Marshall (who was injured and didn’t play) saw their ISU careers come to an end.
“It’s not a real big step, but anything positive that comes to a team is a good thing. The three of us helped turn the program around. Next year I just hope the best for the guys. There’s good guys here and there’s good guys coming in. They should carry over to next year,” Reed said.