TERRE HAUTE — Is it premature to get the Indiana State men’s basketball bandwagon rolling?
Perhaps. But feel free to put the keys in the ignition.
ISU dominated Northern Iowa in a 74-56 Missouri Valley Conference victory at Hulman Center on Saturday. The Sycamores have won four in a row, are 3-0 in the Valley for the first time since 2001, and won by their largest margin in a conference game since 2003 when ISU beat Evansville by 20.
“I was telling Adam [Arnold] on the bench that this was the best game we’ve played in the Valley,” ISU point guard Gabe Moore said. “As far as a 40-minute game, this is the best I’ve seen us play.”
ISU controlled the game with perhaps their best balance of the season and with one of their best 3-point shooting halves of the season.
ISU (8-5, 3-0) shot 61.5 percent from 3-point range in the first half. It wasn’t the Sycamores’ best of the season — ISU shot 66.7 percent against Northern Illinois — but considering six Sycamores (Moore, Jay Tunnell, Marico Stinson, Harry Marshall, Aaron Carter, Lamar Lee) contributed to the hot shooting.
“We played really good unselfish team basketball. We were making plays for each other throughout the game,” said McKenna, who said it was ISU’s best all-around effort of the season. “We took what was given to us and we got hot. It’s kind of fun to watch, it seems like a world record for us to hit 13 [3-pointers] in a game. We’ve made progress. We got those same shots against North Texas, we just didn’t make them.”
UNI coach Ben Jacobson said the Panthers were guarding under the ball screens, choosing to give ISU shots outside instead of allowing Sycamore guards Moore and Marshall to drive the lane. ISU foes have challenged the Sycamores to shoot in other games this season, and the Sycamores have failed to make shots — most notably in a 4 of 30 3-point shooting performance against North Texas on Nov. 17. Given earlier struggles, Saturday’s game was gratifying.
“It shows that when the coaches tell you to stay with it and work on things, that’s it’s starting to pay off,” said Tunnell, who was 3 of 5 from 3-point range for a game-high 19 points. “Everyday during practice and games, coach tells us if we have an open look ... rip it. He wants us to take those shots and he’s confident we can make them. Guys are starting to make them and play with confidence.
ISU gradually built a 14-2 lead, holding the Panthers scoreless in nine of their first 10 possessions. ISU did a good job limiting UNI (10-4, 2-1) big men Jordan Eglseder, Adam Koch and Eric Coleman during that stretch.
“For both the 7-footer [Eglseder] and Coleman, we wanted to stay on their right shoudler and keep them away from their left hand as much as possible,” said Tunnell, referring to UNI’s southpaw big men. “We wanted to take away what they do best and make them work for it.”
But ISU’s defensive prowess was more than just cutting off the inside. The energetic tone set by ISU’s starters was more contagious than its been in any other game. Arnold had his best defensive game of the season, Carter replicated Todd McCoy’s energy after McCoy got into foul trouble, and Lee had his best all-around game.
“It starts with Gabe and Harry,” McKenna said. “But it’s contagious and it goes both ways. When you don’t have energy, it can go the wrong way real quickly. But when you do have energy, and it was probably a result of shots going in, guys are getting excited and more intense, they’re feeling good about themselves.
ISU’s 3-point shooting reached its zenith midway through the first half. After UNI cut its deficit to 16-9, five of ISU’s next six made shots were three’s in a five-minute span. ISU’s first half lead peaked at 34-17 before UNI closed the half out with a 6-0 run to make it 41-23 at the break.
The Panthers’ late first half run proved to be a mirage. ISU forced five turnovers in UNI’s first six possessions of the second half and the blowout was on. A 10-2 run put ISU up 53-28 at the 15-minute mark, ISU would lead by as much as 27, and ISU would maintain a 20-point-plus advantage until late in the game, though UNI pressure gave ISU some trouble, but long after the game was out of hand.
ISU’s travels to Drake next Wednesday in what could possibly be a showdown for the conference lead. Drake (11-1, 2-0) plays at Evansville today. Illinois State is also 3-0 in the Valley after a win over Southern Illinois.
McKenna is determined to keep the Sycamores from getting “fat and happy.”
“We have to keep challenging them to not be content. We can’t sit back and think we have it all figured out. We don’t. The league is too good. If we think we’re too good, it’s not going to happen for us,” McKenna said. “But if we keep showing effort in practice, if we keep playing team basketball, you never know where we can end up.”
ISU started 4-1 in the Valley last season before the Sycamores fell apart. ISU’s veterans haven’t forgotten that, and want to impart to the younger Sycamores the importance of maintaining their edge.
“My freshman year we were 8-0 and slid and last year we were 4-0. It’s great to be 3-0, but there’s 13 games to go,” Tunnell said. “For us to take this 3-0 and think we’ve done something isn’t what we need to do. We’re playing for more than just 3-0 and 8-5, we’re playing to be in the top of the league and play for the NCAA Tournament.”
Northern Iowa 56
Player mi fg 3pt ft r a pf tp
Josten 24 1-1 0-0 1-2 0 2 1 3
Brown 19 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 1 3
Dunham 10 0-4 0-2 0-0 1 0 1 0
Koch 28 3-6 1-3 5-7 6 2 4 12
Eglseder 24 4-8 0-0 0-2 10 1 3 8
Lundberg 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0
Molstead 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0
Coleman 22 6-10 0-0 1-2 4 1 2 13
Green 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0
Haak 16 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 2
Viet 10 1-2 1-2 0-0 4 0 1 3
Montgomery 20 4-8 3-6 1-1 2 0 3 12
Reed 19 0-6 0-2 0-0 2 0 2 0
O’Rear 5 0-0 0-0 0-2 2 0 0 0
Totals 21-48 6-17 8-16 33* 6 20 56
Indiana State 74
Player mi fg 3pt ft r a pf tp
Moore 32 3-6 1-2 0-0 8 7 1 7
Marshall 26 2-3 2-3 3-4 2 0 2 9
Stinson 27 5-13 3-7 0-0 1 1 1 13
McCoy 13 2-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 3 4
Tunnell 29 6-11 3-5 4-5 4 2 1 19
Arnold 12 1-1 1-1 0-0 4 1 3 3
Holmstrom 2 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2
Lee 20 3-7 2-3 0-0 0 4 0 8
Martin 20 1-2 0-0 2-4 1 0 3 4
Carter 14 1-3 1-3 2-2 2 1 1 5
Yelovich 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 3 0
Totals 25-49 13-24 11-15 28* 16 18 74
Halftime score — ISU 41 UNI 23. FG Pct. — UNI .438, ISU .510. 3-pt FG Pct. — UNI .353, ISU .542. FT Pct. — UNI .500, ISU .733. Steals — UNI 6 (Haak 4), ISU 5 (Moore 2). Blocks — UNI 1 (Eglseder), RH 4 (Martin 2, Arnold and Yelovich). Turnovers — UNI 18, ISU 9. (*) Team rebounds — UNI 2, ISU 4. Technical foul — Martin. Att. — 3,976.
TERRE HAUTE — Is it premature to get the Indiana State men’s basketball bandwagon rolling?
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When it's cold outside, it takes a while for your car engine to crank.
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Winning basketball teams need glue players, the term sometimes used when referring to someone who helps hold it all together.
In some cases, that means getting the ball in the right place at the right time. Or having a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
It’s more often than not coming away with a loose ball on the court. It’s deflecting so many passes that you become the player that most annoys the opponent.
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