TERRE HAUTE — If the Masters is a tradition like no other, the Indiana State’s men’s basketball program has a “tradition” it would rather smother.
For the last five seasons — and in every season save one since 2001 — ISU has had a five-game losing streak in Missouri Valley Conference play. ISU had two seasons where it had two different five-game-or longer MVC losing streaks.
The only season since 2001 where ISU didn’t have a five-game conference losing streak was 2004-05 … when it had four different three-game losing skids.
ISU is on the precipice of keeping that five-game slide alive for yet another season if it cannot defeat Southern Illinois in Hulman Center tonight. The Sycamores are currently mired in a four-game skid after losses to Wichita State, Northern Iowa, Missouri State and Northern Iowa again on Sunday.
It’s true that the combined MVC record of the teams ISU has lost to is 28-10. And it’s also true that ISU (11-9, 3-6) has lost them all without the services of leading scorer Dwayne Lathan, who was injured on Jan. 6 at Bradley.
“I’m apt to give credit to some of the teams we were playing. Northern [Iowa] is a very good team. If you make a mistake, they make you pay. We made five simple mistakes against them on Sunday. Five plays, ten points and there’s the game,” ISU coach Kevin McKenna said.
But it’s also true that a four-game losing streak can have a damaging effect on any team, no matter the caliber of competition they’ve faced or what the state of the team’s roster is. Confidence, after all, doesn’t have a strength of schedule component.
“I think [losing] has [bothered the team] a little bit. If it didn’t, I think we’d have even more problems. It bothers us, no doubt about it, but we can’t dwell on it,” McKenna said. “We’re focused on our attitude, making plays for our teammates, and keeping the game as simple as we can. We want to play hard and more reckless on the defensive end and with more focus and control on the offensive end.”
ISU sophomore forward Carl Richard, who is one of the only Sycamores to increase his production during the streak, isn’t overly concerned about the team’s confidence.
“We could have won nearly all of those games, but we got too far down or had something else break down. We have no excuses at all,” Richard said. “We feel like we’re right there. We’re two or three mental lapses away from avoiding these losses.”
Meanwhile, Lathan, who has missed ISU’s last five games with a leg injury, claimed on his Facebook account this week that will be “back in action vs. SIU” and he made similar off-hand comments on Wednesday at Hulman Center.
Welcome to the 21st Century version of the injury report, however, Lathan did miss part of practice on Wednesday. McKenna maintains that it remains a game-time decision as to whether Lathan plays tonight.
“I don’t know how to get on Facebook, so I don’t know what that means,” McKenna said. “He’s back practicing, but is he back to 100 percent? Absolutely not. His mobility is still limited. He’s still a ways away from the Dwayne we knew before he got hurt. It’ll be a game-time decision tomorrow. We’ll wait-and-see how he feels.”
Unlike the Sycamores, Southern Illinois (12-7, 4-5) has some momentum coming into the game. The Salukis knocked off Illinois State by a point last Saturday and defeated Western Kentucky 68-63 in Carbondale, Ill. on Monday. The Salukis defeated the Sycamores 70-52 on Dec. 29, a game ISU led until Jake Kelly tore his ACL early in the second half. SIU also has two road wins in conference play already, victories at Bradley and Evansville.
Southern Illinois at ISU men
Tipoff — 7 p.m. at Hulman Center
Broadcasts — Radio: WSDM (92.7-FM). Live blog: tribstar/sports.com
Last time out — ISU lost to Northern Iowa 67-58 on Sunday. SIU defeated Western Kentucky 68-63 on Monday.
Series — SIU leads 76-38. ISU has not defeated SIU at Hulman Center since 2008 and each team has won 26 games in Terre Haute.
Indiana State Sycamores (11-9, 3-6) — G Harry Marshall (6-0, Sr., 13.4 ppg, 4 rpg); Jordan Printy (6-4, So., 6.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Rashad Reed (6-1, Sr., 9 ppg, 3.3 rpg); F Carl Richard (6-5, So., 6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); and C Brant Leitnaker (6-10, Jr., 3.6) are possible starters. G-F Aaron Carter (6-4, Jr., 5.4); F Dwayne Lathan (6-3, So., 13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F Koang Doluony (6-8, Fr., 3.1); C Josh Crawford (6-11, Sr., 3.5) and C Isiah Martin (6-8, Jr., 3 ppg) are key contributors off the bench.
Coach — Kevin McKenna (37-46 at ISU, 3rd year; 126-79 overall, 7th year).
Southern Illinois Salukis (12-7, 4-5) — G Kevin Dillard (6-0, So., 13.9 ppg, 5.5 apg); C Gene Teague (6-9, Fr., 3.8); F Carlton Fay (6-8, Jr., 11.8, 3.7 rpg); F Tony Freeman (6-1, Sr., 11.9) and G Justin Bocot (6-4, Jr., 8.3) are possible starters. F Anthony Booker (6-8, So., 7.1, 4.8 rpg); C Nick Evans (6-11, So, 6 ppg); G Kendal Brown-Surles (5-10, Fr., 3.4); G Jack Crowder (6-4, Jr., 3.1) and G John Freeman (6-5, Jr., 4.4 ppg) are key contributors off the bench.
Coach — Chris Lowery (121-66, 6th year).
Next games — ISU plays at Evansville and SIU plays host toWichita State on Sunday.
— Todd Golden
Sycamores host Salukis tonight in Hulman Center
TERRE HAUTE — If the Masters is a tradition like no other, the Indiana State’s men’s basketball program has a “tradition” it would rather smother.
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