News From Terre Haute, Indiana

College

January 21, 2012

ISU needs to find chip on its shoulder

Men face No. 18 Creighton today on ESPN2

OMAHA, NEB. — When one looks back at the totality of Indiana State’s 2010-11 men’s basketball season, there’s a recurrent theme that tied together the high points in a 20-14 campaign. A recurrent theme that might give ISU a lifeline in what has been a disappointing 2012 season.

When ISU played well last year, it approached many of its games during that period with an underdog mentality. Victories at home against Creighton and Missouri State, along with some key road victories, were earned when the Sycamores weren’t expected to win.

That attribute reached its zenith in ISU’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament run, in which the Sycamores were considered to be underdogs against both Wichita State and Missouri State in the championship game, but beat both.

The late-season success last year makes it easy to block from memory the portions of the 2011 season that didn’t go as well. ISU started that season feeling confident they would be a high-quality team, but stumbled out of the gate with a 3-5 start, including embarrassing losses at Ball State and Wyoming.

Similarly, when ISU vaulted to the top of the MVC near the midway point last season, the Sycamores slipped again. Five consecutive losses put ISU in a position where it had to fight in the last third of the MVC season to get back to a respectable league finish.

The 2012 season has been no different. Great things were expected of ISU, but the Sycamores have approached some games with overconfidence. Games have been approached with the Sycamores feeling as if they were the favorite, only to play down or below the level of their competition.

When ISU has played as if they were the underdog – as it did in a December win at Vanderbilt and in a close loss against Wichita State at home last Sunday – it fought hard, played hard and showed grit missing from its sometimes listless defeats.

ISU is back in that underdog situation again at 3 p.m. today at No. 18 Creighton. No one expects the struggling Sycamores (11-8, 2-6) to emerge from Omaha with a win. Can ISU use its past success as an underdog to its advantage again?

ISU forward Carl Richard sees a lot of parallels between last year and this season. At least he hopes so. He believes the Sycamores are in much the same situation as last year and he’s not far wrong. ISU was just one game better at his point last year (12-7) than they are this season.

“Now more than ever, we have to play with a chip on our shoulder. Our backs are against the wall, it’s just like last year as far as morale and team feeling. We can’t do any worse,” Richard said.

“We were in a slump last year, we had played better, we just didn’t finish games. We’re having the same issue this year. Once we figure out how to play a complete game, we’ll be right back to where we were last year,” Richard added.

It begs the question … should ISU approach every game, no matter the caliber of opponent, with a sort of us-against-the-world mentality that puts the chip on the Sycamores shoulder?

“You should have always play like you have a chip on your shoulder. These guys know that. Maybe we’ve taken some things for granted,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

ISU has little choice but to try and find something that works. At 2-6 in the MVC, ISU is in ninth place, firmly entrenched in the bottom four of the league. The game at Creighton couldn’t come at a worse time given that ISU is trying to pull itself out of a four-game losing streak, but the Sycamores have to start somewhere, and a win against the Bluejays on national television (the game will be broadcast on ESPN2) would create a big splash.

A win won’t come easy. MVC co-leader Creighton is 17-2 and super sophomore forward Doug McDermott is getting national attention for his play. He’s averaging 23.4 points – ranked second nationally – and 8.4 rebounds. McDermott is just as adept at scoring outside as he does in the paint. He’s made 52.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.

“I had a NBA scout tell me he’s the most efficient scorer in the country. He looks like he’s 12, but he’s an assassin. He does everything, so you can’t guard him with one guy. It’ll be a team defense thing. You have to do your work early. You have to be in a good position or you have no chance. You can’t fall asleep against him for a second,” Lansing said.

And it doesn’t stop there for the Bluejays. Six-foot-nine Gregory Echenique’s presence in the lane makes it impossible to have a center help on McDermott. Point guard Antoine Young is one the league’s best floor generals and Creighton has received perimeter scoring and strong leadership from Gonzaga transfer (and former high school teammate of ISU’s Jordan Printy) Grant Gibbs.

Richard, who has sat out brief periods of the last two games with back spasms, expects to be able to play today.

“I feel good enough to play and I’m going to give 110 percent. That’s all there is to it,” Richard said.

ISU has not won in Omaha since 1999 and has never won in the CenturyLink Center (formerly known as Qwest Center).

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