TERRE HAUTE —
As Indiana State’s men’s basketball team practiced on Thursday at Hulman Center, nothing seemed too unusual.
It had the usual tenor of a post-gameday practice. It was light. Most of the time was devoted to shooting and some early walkthrough’s on ISU’s Saturday opponent — Bradley.
The appearance of normalcy is misleading however. Coming off a come-from-behind 77-73 victory at Drake on Wednesday, the Sycamores showed little evidence of being too hyped up from a road victory that gave the program its first two-game road winning streak in Missouri Valley Conference play since 1979.
So while nothing seemed out of the ordinary, the maturity the team silently gave off spoke volumes.
“We had a big win. We expected to win, we wanted to win and we did, but we can’t really focus on it. We have two days to prep for Bradley. We’re focused on being undefeated each day. Every game, every practice. We just want to be better everyday,” ISU swingman Khristian Smith said.
That maturity wasn’t just in evidence on Thursday, it came to the fore in the heart of Wednesday’s game. After leading by 12 early in the second half, ISU was down four with 8:45 to go.
But there was no panic in the Sycamores. They knew if they stayed calm the game would come back to them.
“We stayed really composed. When we got in huddles, we maintained our composure. We understood we still had time to come back. I think our experience really showed tonight. To be able to do that on the road is big-time for us,” said ISU point guard Jake Odum after Wednesday’s game.
Key shots were hit by Lucas Eitel, Khristian Smith, Manny Arop, Dawon Cummings and Odum during ISU’s game-finishing 18-8 run. The Sycamores scored on 12 of their last 15 possessions.
It doesn’t hurt ISU’s maturity cause when it’s so easy to rely one’s teammates. When you trust your teammate to get the job done, it makes it easier to be mature. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation that plays to ISU’s benefit.
“We know on any given night someone can have a big game. We don’t think about it much, it just comes naturally. It’s nice to know you can trust any guy on this team,” ISU center Jake Kitchell said.
The wellspring for ISU’s maturity is the age of the roster — eight Sycamores are upperclassmen — but there’s also the bad taste left in their mouths when ISU lost seven of nine to finish the season and they had built NCAA Tournament expectations.
“I think last year hit us in the mouth hard. We got a bit too excited at the end of the year. We didn’t like how last year ended. We’re a more mature team who knows how to take one game at a time,” Smith said.
ISU (12-3, 3-0) has won nine of its last 10 contests, the only loss in that stretch was to Saint Louis on Dec. 18, but the Sycamores are trying not to get hyped up about it.
“You said we won nine of 10? I don’t think anyone on the team even realized we won nine of 10. We’ve really been focused on one game at a time. We’re excited about it, but once we get back to Terre Haute, we move on to the next game,” Odum said.
ISU coach Greg Lansing said that ISU’s team should be more mature and that maturity should be expected. He used Thursday’s light practice as an example.
“I tell them not to misunderstand my kindness for weakness. By letting them have a light day, more of a mental day and giving some guys a chance to rest, they should be business-like in their approach and work when they’re in here,” Lansing said.
Odum and Arop were rested throughout the practice. Odum has tendonitis in both knees. Arop hurt his left knee in a collision with Drake’s Seth VanDeest at the 13:41 mark of the second half on Wednesday.
Devonte Brown also continues to deal with a hip pointer. Lansing is choosing his spots with Brown, who played 16 minutes against the Bulldogs on Wednesday.
“With Devonte’s injury, he can’t do what he’s good at. He tried to give it a go against [D.J.] Balentine at Evansville [last Saturday] and couldn’t do it and Balentine got 12 big ones. He tried last night to help us, and did, but he’s still hurting a bit,” Lansing said.
Lansing indicated that Saturday’s 1 p.m. home game against Bradley will be a white-out promotion.
Sycamores displaying great focus in 2-0 MVC start
TERRE HAUTE —
As Indiana State’s men’s basketball team practiced on Thursday at Hulman Center, nothing seemed too unusual.
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