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December 19, 2013

Sycamores get lesson in toughness from Billikens

SLU beats ISU 83-66 in foul-marred game

ST. LOUIS — Indiana State's 83-66 loss to Saint Louis on Wednesday at Chaifetz Arena was many things.

It was a study in how the Billikens play suffocatiing defense. Despite shooting 48 percent, ISU had trouble gaining traction against SLU's physical stopping power all night.

It was frustrating. ISU was whistled for 29 fouls, including 21 in the second half. SLU marched to the line seemingly at will. The second half was called far tighter by the officials than the first half where contact was widely tolerated which made it hard to know exactly how to play defense.

It was strange. ISU, the top 3-point shooting team in the nation entering the game, shot 3 of 11 from long range (and fell to third nationally). SLU, shooting 30 percent from 3-point range, drained 6 of 10 in the second half.

It was many things, but most of all, it was a missed opportunity for the Sycamores.

ISU coach Greg Lansing saw the game as a test of ISU's toughness against a prototypical Jim Crews-coached team that wears that attribute on its sleeve.

"[SLU] is the type of team you want to be. You want to be difficult to play against. You can go in our locker room right now and ask if Saint Louis was difficult to play against and their answer would be a resounding 'yes'. If you asked their team? I think they'd say they've played teams that were tougher," Lansing said.

"We said all along it was two good teams and the outcome would be on who was the tougher team. They gave us a lesson tonight. It's what we needed, really," he added.

Few Sycamores had solid games. Manny Arop led the Sycamores with 16 points and was an offensive force at times, but also, a defensive liability. Justin Gant and Khristian Smith had 12 points.

Guard play, normally one of ISU's strengths, let the Sycamores down. Jake Odum had nine points and six assists, but also had seven turnovers. Dawon Cummings scored four points and exercised poor shot selection.

The Billikens' defense had a lot to do with ISU's troubles. SLU's opponents have shot 39 percent and averaged 57 points per game this season -- excellent numbers given that physical defense is supposedly being legislated out of the game.

That legislation was nowhere to be found inside Chaifetz Arena in the first half, but came back with a vengeance in the second. The Billikens were given free reign to bump cutters, use arm-bars and body Sycamore ball-handlers.

"It was a physical game. Coach told us it was going to be a tough game. They're a well-coached team and they execute. That's what they did. They were tougher than us," Arop said.

The Sycamores were not given the same freedom in the second half when foul upon foul was called.

But it wasn't just calls or lack thereof. SLU's size helped it earn a 34-22 rebounding advantage, but the Billikens also beat ISU for some 50/50 balls. SLU scored 15 second-chance points.

"We knew we had to take the paint away, but too many times, they got second chance points and got key rebounds. It killed us throughout the game," Gant said.

SLU's impressive defensive pressure halted ISU's offense in the first 10 minutes. The Sycamores missed their first 10 of 14 shot attempts and found themselves down 11 with 8:33 left.

Arop helped ISU solve the Billikens hammer-lock. He scored eight points in a 15-4 run as ISU tied the game on an Odum three-point play at 2:08.

As impressive as ISU's fight back was, it's cave-in just before the half wiped out some of the gain. Two turnovers and a poor stepback 3-point attempt by Cummings gave SLU the impetus it needed to finish the half on a 7-0 run for a 34-27 halftime advantage.

"That's been our Achilles heel. We've had good spurts, but we can't have spurts where we're making mistakes and not making tough plays. You have to have a consistent effort for 40 minutes against a tough team," Lansing said.

SLU's lead twice reached 10 in the first 10 minutes of the second half, only to have ISU cut back into the deficit, almost exclusively by driving the basket.

From that point, the march to the free throw line began for the Billikens in a game that  morphed from being called loose to air-tight in the second half. At one point in the final 10 minutes, SLU scored at the line on 10 of 14 possessions. In all SLU was 21 of 26 at the line after the break.

Dwayne Jones, SLU's leading scorer, went to the line 20 times alone. He made 16 and led all scorers with 24 points.

ISU had to back off defensively and SLU was able to find space on the perimeter. Austin McBroom (15 points) and Rob Loe (15 points) each made two 3-pointers in SLU's 6 of 10 3-point shooting in the second half.

ISU's offense was never able to get untracked. The flurry of fouls took the Sycamores out of their rhythm. ISU consistently scored in the paint, but its outside struggles kept it from keeping up with SLU's second half foul line parade.

"We got taught a lesson. I think we needed it. Our pride's hurt, our ego's hurt a little bit. We're a good team, but we got beat by a really good team that's tougher than heck," Lansing said.

After playing for nearly a month on the road, ISU returns home to play IUPUI on Saturday.

INDIANA STATE (66) -- Arop 7-12 1-1 16, Gant 4-8 4-5 12, Kitchell 0-2 1-2 1, Cummings 1-4 2-2 4, Odum 3-6 3-5 9, Eitel 0-0 1-2 1, Brown 2-5 2-3 6, Moore 1-2 0-0 2, B. Burnett 1-3 0-0 3, Smith 5-8 1-1 12, Bell 0-0 0-0 0. 24-50 FG, 15-21 FT, 66 TP.

SAINT LOUIS (83) -- Evans 4-8 16-20 24, Loe 5-8 2-2 15, Jett 5-9 1-4 12, McCall 2-7 0-0 6, J. Barnett 2-7 2-2 7, Glaze 1-3 0-0 2, McBroom 3-4 6-6 15, Manning 1-2 0-0 2. 23-48 FG, 27-34 FT, 83 TP.

Halftime -- SLU 34-27. 3-point goals -- ISU 3-11 (Arop 1-3, Burnett 1-1, Smith 1-1, Kitchell 0-2, Gant 0-1, Cummings 0-1, Odum 0-1, Brown 0-1); SLU 10-25 (Loe 3-6, McBroom 3-4, McCall 2-6, Barnett 1-6, Jett 1-2, Manning 0-1). Rebounds -- ISU 22 (Moore 5, Kitchell 4, Odum 3, Team 3, Arop 2, Gant 2, Smith 2, Burnett); SLU 34 (Loe 9, Evans 7, Glaze 4, McBroom 4, Team 4, McCall 3, Jett 2, Barnett). Assists -- ISU 12 (Odum 6, Kitchell 2, Smith 2, Cummings, Brown); SLU 18 (Jett 7, McBroom 6, McCall 2, Evans, Loe, Manning). Steals -- ISU 7 (Odum 3, Brown 2, Eitel, Smith); SLU 6 (Jett 3, Loe 2, Glaze). Blocks -- ISU 4 (Arop 2, Odum, Smith); SLU 8 (Loe 3, Manning 2, Evans, Jett, Barnett). Turnovers -- ISU 14 (Odum 7, Cummings 2, Eitel 2, Arop, Gant, Eitel); SLU 12 (Jett 4, Glaze 3, Evans 2, Barnett, McBroom, Team). Total fouls -- ISU 29, SLU 21. Fouled out -- Smith. A -- 7,205.

Next -- ISU (7-3) plays host to IUPUI and Saint Louis (10-2) plays host to North Carolina A&T on Saturday.


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