TERRE HAUTE —
The deal was on the table for Indiana State.
The stakes? The chance to end Wichita State’s perfect season and to earn a signature win that would earn national notice and possibly more.
If the shots and the free throws fell in the final five minutes, that deal would likely be in ISU’s hands.
But the Sycamores couldn’t get it done.
ISU rallied to get within two of Wichita State with two minutes to go, and the Shockers appeared on the edge of trouble, but the Sycamores missed six of 11 free throws in a five-minute stretch where it also didn’t convert a field goal.
WSU re-grouped, ended the game with a 9-2 run, and improved to 24-0 with a 65-58 victory over the Sycamores.
WSU (24-0, 11-0) left Terre Haute with their perfect record and a three-game Missouri Valley Conference lead in their back pocket.
A boisterous crowd of 9,245, including 2,171 students, lifted the Sycamores throughout the contest, but the Shockers couldn’t be derailed.
“I told the guys afterwards that I thought we did everything we could do but put the ball in the basket. We missed some free throws and got to the basket and missed some layups,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said. “Against one of the best teams in the country you can’t do that.”
Manny Arop led ISU (17-6, 8-3) with 16 points. Jake Odum and Khristian Smith had 11. Cleanthony Early paced the Shockers with 19 points.
“It’s a tough one to swallow. We left it out there today. I’m proud of the team and I’m proud of the community being from here. It’s exciting they were here to support us. We just didn’t have enough against a tough team,” Odum said.
The Shockers were unfazed by the Hulman Center din. Tekele Cotton’s 3-point to start the contest got WSU rolling on its way to an 11-3 advantage. Worse for ISU, Dawon Cummings -- who scored 17 at WSU on Jan. 18 -- got into foul trouble during that stretch and would sit for most of the rest of the first half.
ISU fought back to get within two twice more in the first half, but the Sycamores couldn’t match buckets with stops. Moreover, quick shots led to WSU conversions on the other end.
The Shockers were also red-hot from 3-point range. WSU drained 6 of 7 3-point attempts in the first half. WSU’s lead was 31-22 with 4:36 left in the half and it seemed the Sycamores were in jeopardy of a fade.
That’s when Arop came to the rescue.
Arop skied high for an offensive rebound on a Khristian Smith miss and converted it for a bucket. While on its own, it merely stemmed the WSU tide, it was a positive wave for the Sycamores.
The bucket kick-started a half-ending 13-5 run and Arop scored nine of ISU points in the surge, including a 20-footer (initially ruled a 3-pointer, but a monitor review revealed Arop had his toe on the line) at the halftime buzzer to get ISU within one of WSU at 36-35.
ISU took a 37-36 lead on an Arop leaner at the start of the second half, but then the Sycamores tighten up. ISU had four possessions in which it could’ve increased its advantage, but crucially, couldn’t do it.
It was part of a dry spell of eight straight possessions without a bucket ground the Sycamores to a halt. The Shockers, completely comfortable in the moment, reeled off a 14-2 run to take a 50-39 lead.
It seemed WSU could kill the game off, but the Sycamores rose again. An 8-0 run cut the Shockers’ lead to 52-50 at the 9:04 mark and had Hulman Center bumping again.
WSU bumped its lead back to six when a Justin Gant 3-pointer at 5:02 made it 53-50. It was the last field goal ISU made, but the Sycamores weren’t done.
A suffocating defensive effort, which included a Wichita State shot clock violation and six empty WSU possessions in seven, kept ISU in the contest.
But ISU’s free throws didn’t fall -- five of its seven misses in the contest were in the final five minutes. ISU also had several shots come agonizingly close to the mark, only to have them rim out or fall just short.
It was 58-56 with 2:01 left when WSU delivered the killer blow. An Early 3-point play at 1:03 put the Shockers up 61-56. ISU could get its deficit no closer than three as the Shockers scored the final four points.
“That was quite a battle against a tremendous team in a tremendous atmosphere. That’s why winning on the road is so difficult,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
ISU next plays host to Drake on Sunday.
WICHITA STATE (65) -- Early 5-10 9-11 19, Cotton 5-10 2-3 14, Coleby 0-2 1-2 1, Van Vleet 2-5 0-1 6, Baker 3-8 1-2 8, Lufile 2-4 4-6 8, Wessel 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 2-7 0-3 4, Wiggins 1-1 2-2 5. 20-47 FG, 19-30 FT, 65 TP.
INDIANA STATE (58) -- Arop 7-14 1-3 16, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Gant 1-7 4-5 7, Cummings 0-6 6-8 6, Odum 5-12 0-0 11, Kitchell 0-1 2-2 2, Eitel 1-3 0-0 3, Brown 1-2 0-0 2, Burnett 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 3-8 4-6 11. 18-56 FG, 17-24 FT, 58 TP.
Halftime -- WSU 36-35. 3-point goals -- WSU 6-15 (Cotton 2-5, Van Vleet 2-3, Baker 1-4, Wiggins 1-1, Early 0-2), ISU 5-20 (Arop 1-4, Smith 1-4, Odum 1-3, Eitel 1-3, Gant 1-2, Cummings 0-4). Rebounds -- WSU 35 (Lufile 10, Early 5, Coleby 4, Van Vleet 4, Carter 4, Cotton 3, Baker 2, Wessel, Wiggins, Team); ISU 41 (Arop 9, Smith 7, Gant 6, Cummings 6, Odum 6, Burnett 2, Kitchell). Assists -- WSU 13 (Cotton 5, Van Vleet 4, Baker 3, Early); ISU 6 (Odum 4, Cummings, Burnett). Steals -- WSU 7 (Van Vleet 3, Early, Cotton, Baker, Wiggins); ISU 2 (Gant, Brown). Blocks -- WSU 7 (Carter 3, Coleby 2, Baker, Lufile); ISU 2 (Arop, Cummings). Turnovers -- WSU 10 (Lufile 3, Early 2, Van Vleet 2, Team 2, Cotton)); ISU 9 (Smith 3, Gant 2, Arop, Moore, Odum, Kitchell). Total fouls -- WSU 21, ISU 22. A -- 9,245.
Next -- ISU (17-6, 8-3) plays host to Drake on Sunday. Wichita State (24-0, 11-0) plays at Northern Iowa on Saturday.