Kansas City, Mo. —
Down two at halftime to unfancied Missouri-Kansas City, something had to be done to break Indiana State’s men’s basketball team free from its doldrums.
What did it was pounding the ball inside. Over and over and over again.
The Sycamores rediscovered their groove in the paint in the second half. The inside attack was relentless. All of ISU’s 40 second-half points were scored or set up in the paint as the Sycamores overwhelmed the host Kangaroos 74-63 at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.
ISU (7-2) won its fourth consecutive game. Kansas City native Dawon Cummings set the pace with 15 points. Justin Gant added 13 and Demetrius Moore had his second straight solid performance with 10 points.
ISU needed something to wake it up after a disappointing first half. Taking it inside proved to be the antidote.
ISU scored 40 in the paint overall, 24 were tallied in the second half. The other 16 second-half points were scored at the line on fouls inside the paint.
“All it was making the extra pass and making the easier shot,” said ISU coach Greg Lansing, who noted that the Sycamores were forcing shots in the first half. “In the second half, we backed off a bit on them because 12 of their 13 baskets in the first half were in the paint.”
In a classy venue where ISU earned one of its greatest glories — the 1950 NAIA championship — its first half could have set it up for a notorious defeat.
ISU started the game fast with a 13-4 advantage, but rested on its laurels. UMKC out-worked the Sycamores in the opening half — winning the rebounding edge, points in paint and second chance points. The Kangaroos used a 9-0 run and took the lead at the 6:24 mark.
The Kanagroos’ lead was as much as five in the opening half as ISU clawed its way back to a two-point halftime deficit.
Moore had eight points and six rebounds in the opening 20 minutes — building off a strong performance at Eastern Illinois the week before — but ISU got out-worked by UMKC and that stuck in ISU’s craw.
“We got up nine and I think the guys thought it was going to be easier than what it was. We let a team that’s not as good as us play harder than us. That’s kind of unacceptable,” Lansing said.
ISU was losing the rebounding battle, points in the paint and second-chance points at halftime.
The recovery was swift.
With UMKC up 40-38, ISU went on a 17-2 run to put the game out of the Roos reach. While Gant got untracked after a quiet first half — he scored eight in the second half — ISU also scored inside via penetration.
“A lot of those were on drives. We talk about paint touches and it’s not just about throwing it into the post players. It’s drives, it’s cuts and it’s finishing strong. We did a much better job in the second half of that,” Lansing said.
Part of what allowed ISU to pount it inside was UMKC’s defense style. UMKC coach Kareem Richardson — a former ISU assistant coach — inherited a pressing style from his most recent mentor, Louisville coach Rick Pitino. ISU used UMKC’s press against it, breaking it, and then getting easy looks in the paint.
“They threw a lot of different defenses. They trapped, they trapped ball screens, they hedged it. We wanted to get the ball, swing it, and attack the gaps they had,” said Cummings, who enjoyed a fruitful return to his hometown.
ISU also played better defense in the second half. UMKC shot just 28 percent in the second half. It’s halftime rebounding edge disappeared too. ISU ultimately won the battle of the boards 40-32.
ISU takes a 7-2 record into an important game at Saint Louis on Wednesday. The Billikens are one of the strongest teams on ISU’s nonconference schedule. A win there would serve notice that the Sycamores mean business as the Missouri Valley Conference season approaches.
“It’s going to be a big game for both teams. We have to work hard to get ourselves better,” Gant said.
INDIANA STATE (74) — Arop 2-8 4-4 9, Gant 6-9 0-0 13, Kitchell 1-3 3-3 5, Cummings 5-8 3-6 15, Odum 3-5 2-3 8, Eitel 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 2-6 4-8 8, Moore 5-6 0-0 10, Burnett 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 0-5 4-5 4, Bell 0-0 0-0 0. 25-53 FG, 20-29 FT, 74 TP.
UMKC (63) — Kirksey 3-9 5-6 11, Hall 6-10 4-4 16, Chatmon 2-5 0-3 4, Harrison 5-16 9-17 20, Williams 1-7 2-3 4, Burke 0-1 0-0 0, Bledsoe 2-4 0-0 6, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Korver 0-2 0-0 0, Kreuer 0-1 0-0 0. 20-57 FG, 20-33 FT, 63 TP.
Halftime — UMKC 36-34. 3-point goals — ISU 4-10 (Cummings 2-4, Arop 1-3, Gant 1-1, Brown 0-1, Burnett 0-1); UMKC 3-19 (Bledsoe 2-4, Harrison 1-5, Williams 0-4, Kirksey 0-3, Korver 0-2, Hall 0-1). Rebounds — ISU 40 (Gant 7, Moore 7, Arop 6, Kitchell 5, Odum 5, Smith 3, Team 3, Cummings 2, Burnett, Bell); UMKC 32 (Chatmon 8, Hall 7, Team 3, Kirksey 2, Harrison 2, Williams 2, Bledsoe 2, Johnson 2, Korver 2). Assists — ISU 11 (Brown 4, Arop 2, Gant, Cummings, Odum, Eitel, Smith); UMKC 7 (Kirksey, Hall, Harrison, Williams, Bledsoe, Johnson, Kreuer). Steals — ISU 4 (Arop 2, Kitchell, Cummings); UMKC 7 (Harrison 4, Kirksey, Bledsoe, Johnson). Blocks — ISU 6 (Cummings 2, Gant, Kitchell, Brown, Bell); UMKC 4 (Chatmon 2, Johnson 2). Turnovers — ISU 15 (Cummings 3, Odum 3, Smith 2, Bell 2, Arop, Gant, Eitel, Brown, Burnett); UMKC 11 (Kirksey 4, Hall 2, Harrison 2, Korver 2, Johnson). Total fouls — ISU 24, UMKC 21. A — 2,496.
Next — ISU (7-2) plays at Saint Louis and UMKC (2-7) plays host to Miami of Ohio on Wednesday.