TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum has performed countless acts of derring-do to pull the Sycamores out of the fire during his three-year career.
Odum gave the Sycamores a helping hand again on Saturday against Northern Iowa, or more accurately, a helping elbow.
With time running out and ISU down one, Odum unleashed a last-second, 26-foot heave that landed well off the mark. But ISU wasn’t dead. UNI forward Jake Koch swiped at Odum’s elbow as he shot the ball and the foul was called with .3 seconds left.
Odum made two of the three free throws to lift the Sycamores to a dramatic 59-58 victory in front of 6,554 at Hulman Center.
ISU’s victory lifted it to 6-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Sycamores (13-7 overall) remained in third place in the MVC and earned a season sweep over the Panthers, which could prove crucial if tiebreakers come into play for the MVC Tournament in March.
Odum, per usual, was huge for the Sycamores. He had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Anthony James led UNI with 15 points.
The final play was not without controversy, but it was certainly filled with heartache for the Panthers.
ISU led 57-54 going into the final minute. A pair of James free throws pulled UNI within one and then the Panthers defended ISU effectively on the next possession and forced a Lucas Eitel turnover with 17 seconds left.
James then hit a very difficult and well-defended off-balance hook to the right of the lane to give UNI a 58-57 lead with 4 seconds left. It appeared UNI was destined for a morale-lifting victory.
Justin Gant inbounded to Odum with 3.3 seconds left. Odum was guarded by James and shadowed by Koch. Odum caught the ball facing UNI’s basket, but James over-committed on the pass. Odum dribbled past him and closed in on the 3-point arc with Koch chasing to Odum’s right.
“Jake [Koch] was going to be behind him with the way we had it set up. We were hoping to have [James] in front of him to make him take time to move it up the floor. With a one-point lead, it’s tricky. [Odum’s] got enough size that you don’t want to foul him,” UNI coach Ben Jacobson said.
Koch was parallel to Odum when the shot was taken. Koch reached over his own body and swiped at Odum with his right arm. There appeared to be contact on Odum’s elbow and official Eric Curry immediately made the call to put Odum at the line for three shots with :00.3 left.
Replays were inconclusive as to how significant the contact was, but Odum had no doubts.
“We were going to call a timeout at half-court, but they let me drive it and I went with it. Their guy came from behind and hit me on the arm,” Odum said.
Was Odum expecting to get the call on a last-second, bang-bang play?
“I was going to make [the 3-point shot] if he didn’t foul me,” Odum joked. “It was fortunate that they saw the foul and that it happened that way for us.”
Odum missed the first free throw, but drained the next two to put ISU in front by a point.
“R.J. [Mahurin] said, ‘I can’t look.’ I told him, ‘I’m looking. He’s going to hit at least one of them and we’re in overtime at worst,’” ISU forward Manny Arop said. “I have complete faith in Jake. He’s hit so many big shots for us. He’s our leader and we wouldn’t want anyone else at the line.”
Tuttle’s desperation tip at the buzzer was off-the-mark.
Had ISU lost, it would have been equally heartbreaking for the Sycamores, who fought back in the final 10 minutes to take the lead after a languid first 30 minutes. ISU trailed 39-32 with just over 10 minutes to play when the Sycamores got their offense untracked.
R.J. Mahurin, who had his best scoring game since ISU’s December Hawaii trip with 14 points, scored seven in succession to cut UNI’s lead to two by the 7:53 mark. An alley oop dunk by Gant tied it at 44 with 7:25 left.
A 5-0 UNI run restored its lead, but ISU countered with a 7-0 run to take a 53-51 lead with 4:34 left on an Arop 8-footer. ISU – which shot 63.2 percent in the second half – maintained its advantage until James’ late conversion with 4 seconds left.
In the final 10 minutes, ISU scored on 12 of its 18 trips down the floor. Prior to that, ISU had converted on just 14 of its 38 trips. It took time for the Sycamores to figure out how best to attack a solid UNI defense. The antidote came when ISU started attacking the basket with more vigor.
“[UNI] is hard to score and play against. We didn’t get to the free throw line and we had to be more patient,” said ISU coach Greg Lansing.
“They’re so well-prepared defensively that you can’t just make one pass or drive down and score. You’re going to have to move the ball and get it sideline-to-sideline and get it in and out of the paint,” he added.
As one might expect against UNI, the game was played at a low-register, low-possession gait. The lead changed hands eight times in the first half as neither team could muster a run.
ISU had leads of 14-12 and 16-15, but failed on multiple occasions to build on the advantages. A dependence on jump-shooting – at the expense of driving to the basket – and general offensive lack of execution played a large part.
UNI (11-10, 4-5) didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and took the lead on a Matt Bohannon 3-pointer at 5:27. A 7-0 Panthers’ run made it 22-16.
Odum came to the rescue and scored the last seven points of the half for ISU to keep it close as UNI had a 27-23 halftime advantage.
ISU caught up to the tie the game early in the second half, but a 9-2 UNI run in a low-tempo game helped the Panthers take a 37-30 lead with 13:54 left. UNI had multiple chances to build on its lead, but couldn’t, which gave ISU the opening to mount a comeback.
ISU begins a key two-game road swing on Tuesday with a game at first-place Wichita State. A trip to Drake follows next Saturday before ISU returns home to face Creighton on Feb. 6.
NORTHERN IOWA (58) – Tuttle 4-8 4-5 12, Koch 4-9 1-3 13, Mitchell 3-5 2-2 10, Sonnen 2-5 0-0 5, James 5-11 4-4 15, Rank 0-2 0-0 0, Bohannon 1-3 0-0 3, Buss 0-0 0-0 0, Martino 0-1 0-0 0. 19-44 FG, 11-14 FT, 58 TP.
INDIANA STATE (59) – Arop 4-8 0-0 10, Mahurin 4-9 4-4 14, Gant 3-6 0-0 6, Brown 2-4 0-0 4, Odum 5-9 6-7 16, Kitchell 2-3 0-0 4, Eitel 0-1 0-0 0, Cummings 1-3 0-0 3, K. Smith 1-4 0-0 2. 22-47 FG, 10-11 FT, 59 TP.
Halftime score – UNI 27-23. 3-point goals – UNI 9-19 (Koch 4-6, Mitchell 2-2, James 1-3, Bohannon 1-3, Rank 0-2, Tuttle 0-1, Martino 0-1), ISU 5-16 (Arop 2-5, Mahurin 2-2, Cummings 1-2, Brown 0-2, K. Smith 0-2, Gant 0-1, Odum 0-1, Eitel 0-1). Rebounds – UNI 24 (Tuttle 5, Koch 4, Sonnen 4, James 3, Bohannon 2, Team 2, Mitchell, Rank, Buss, Martino), ISU 27 (Odum 7, Arop 4, Mahurin 4, Kitchell 3, Cummings 3, Brown 2, Eitel 2, Gant, Team), Assists – UNI 12 (Mitchell 4, Koch 2, James 2, Tuttle, Sonnen, Rank, Martino), ISU 14 (Odum 5, Gant 2, Eitel 2, Cummings 2, Arop, Mahurin, K. Smith), Steals – UNI 5 (Koch 2, Sonnen, James, Bohannon), ISU 4 (Arop, Brown, Odum, K. Smith), Blocks – UNI 1 (Koch), ISU 3 (Mahurin, Odum, Cummings), Turnovers – UNI 10 (Tuttle 3, James 3, Koch 2, Mitchell 2), ISU 11 (Arop 4, Brown 2, Odum 2, Eitel 2, Kitchell), Total fouls – UNI 16, ISU 17. A – 6554.
Next – ISU (13-7, 6-3) plays at Wichita State and UNI (11-10, 4-5) plays at Evansville on Tuesday.