TERRE HAUTE —
After three consecutive lackluster halves, Indiana State’s men’s basketball team was at a crossroads.
Down four to Missouri State at halftime on its home floor, the Sycamores could either summon the intensity they had to start the Missouri Valley Conference season and solidify their spot in the league’s top half.
Or they could fade away and find themselves mired in a mid-conference dogfight.
The Sycamores chose the former and breathed easier after a 68-60 victory in front of 5,593 in Hulman Center on Wednesday.
ISU shot 61.9 percent and had just three turnovers in the second half. The much-improved effort and intensity helped ISU outscore Missouri State 41-29 after the break.
“We came out flat. We played three halves in a row where we didn’t play our brand of basketball. We realized in the second half that we don’t get games back,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.
“Coming in, we wanted to impose our will on the offensive and defensive end and we did a much better job in the second half.”
ISU’s defense also played its part. The Sycamores were able to score at critical times off Missouri State mistakes. The Bears had 12 turnovers, but ISU also altered other Missouri State possessions with more deflections and better intensity in the second half. The Bears shot 15 percentage points worse in the second half than they did in the first.
“We felt, even going back last week to Bradley, that we haven’t had pressure on the ball. We got some deflections, we got turnovers and we got out in transition a little bit. We were just playing better,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
ISU (11-6, 4-2) also had enviable balance. Down the roster sheet, ISU’s individual scoring was 10,10,10,10, 8, 7, 6, 4 and 3. Indiana State’s rebounding? It went 4, 4, 4, 3, 3 and 3.
Manny Arop, Justin Gant, Devonte Brown and Dawon Cummings each had 10 points. Arop, Brown and Cummings each had four rebounds.
The Sycamores chased their tails in the first half as they trailed for its entirety. Missouri State started swingman Gavin Thurman for just the second time this season and the freshman scored the first nine points of the game for the Bears.
ISU closed the gap to 17-16, but Missouri State’s 10-2 run gave the Bears a nine-point lead. ISU closed the gap to 31-27 by halftime, but the Sycamores were hurt by the inability to consistently defend during the Bears’ long offensive possessions. Missouri State shot 56 percent in the first half.
ISU attacked the basket with more zest in the second half. ISU tied it less than two minutes into the contest with all of the scoring opportunities either coming via penetration or from inside-out passes.
ISU took the lead for good on a Cummings 3-pointer with 16:26 left. A 19-6 start to the second half was capped by a stretch where Arop scored seven ISU points in succession. ISU led 46-37.
“I think it was a difference of pace. They imposed their will with a low-paced game [in the first half]. In the second half, Dawon started and it helped speed the game up. I think that’s what got us the win,” Brown said.
Missouri State (5-13, 3-3) was held at arm’s length the rest of the way, but the Sycamores couldn’t pull away from the Bears either, a familiar pattern for the Sycamores this season. ISU’s biggest lead — a 60-46 advantage — came with 3:38 left and it seemed ISU had put a stake in Missouri State’s heart.
But finishing teams hasn’t been ISU’s strong point. ISU struggled again at the line — the Sycamores converted 7 of 13 in the final two minutes, a statistic that would have hurt ISU more had Missouri State not shot 1 of 4 at the line in the same stretch.
Still, Missouri State had a smidgen of hope when Nathan Scheer buried a long 3-pointer with 27 seconds left to make it 66-60.
After ISU’s Lucas Eitel missed a pair at the line, Scheer missed another long 3 and Cummings drained a pair of free throws with 10.6 seconds left to put the game away.
The difficulty in finishing another team off was a sore spot in an otherwise bright second-half effort.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t know if we let up or if the other team steps up more, but good teams put teams away and we haven’t been able to do a good job of that. It starts with me, I have to hit free throws and others do too,” Odum said.
Lansing has taken notice of the late-game struggles too.
“We’ve done it in nearly all of the games we’ve won. We could probably put teams away a bit better with possession basketball, making free throws and by not putting them at the free-throw line. We have to get better down the stretch,” Lansing said.
ISU next plays host to Evansville on Saturday. The Purple Aces fell into a third-place tie with the Sycamores as they lost 83-69 at Drake on Wednesday.
TERRE HAUTE —
After three consecutive lackluster halves, Indiana State’s men’s basketball team was at a crossroads.
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When it's cold outside, it takes a while for your car engine to crank.
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Once the Sycamore engine revved up, the Sycamores cruised to a 66-48 victory over the Panthers.
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Zurek, one of ISU's best defenders, also working hard off the court
Winning basketball teams need glue players, the term sometimes used when referring to someone who helps hold it all together.
In some cases, that means getting the ball in the right place at the right time. Or having a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
It’s more often than not coming away with a loose ball on the court. It’s deflecting so many passes that you become the player that most annoys the opponent.
For Indiana State, that’s Natasha Zurek. The junior athletic training major was inserted into the starting lineup for the past two games.
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EIU might come at right time for ISU
Sometimes an opponent lines up just right on the schedule that suits a team’s needs.
That’s true for Indiana State as it travels to play Eastern Illinois at 8 p.m. today at Lantz Arena. And it’s not because the Panthers have struggled, even though they have.
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ISU’s Underwood named first team All-MVC
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Rose-Hulman women fall short to Marian
A clutch 3-pointer and free throws down the stretch sealed the home victory for Marian University in Saturday’s competitive 50-45 nonconference victory over the Rose-Hulman women’s basketball team.
Strickland pours in 30, but the Engineers fall in home opener
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Indiana State holds off hot-shooting Pepperdine
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But when it came down to winning time? Pepperdine’s Waves crashed on the rocks of ISU’s defense.
Hoosiers gain 692 total yards, re-claim Oaken Bucket
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Sycamores outpace Seawolves
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Uneven Sycamores fall 63-62 to Tulsa
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Tulsa's switching defenses confounded Sycamores
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On target: Sycamores spreading the wealth with their shooting
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O’Leary eyes return to Hulman Center
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Young Evansville team unable to threaten Indiana
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ISU defeats Truman
What do you expect when a Division II team pays a visit to a Division I arena?
In Truman State’s case, you can expect a pretty good showing. Indiana State had some nervous moments against the Bulldogs, but the Sycamores prevailed 80-69 on Friday at Hulman Center.
- More College Headlines
- Tough defeat: Inability to finish drops ISU women’s record to 3-4