News From Terre Haute, Indiana

College

December 26, 2011

ISU a confident bunch heading into MVC action

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s men’s basketball team entered the 2011-12 season with higher expectations than the program has had in a decade. The Sycamores were expected to be one of the Missouri Valley Conference’s better teams in pre-conference play and were picked to finish third in the conference itself.

The pre-conference part of the schedule is over and the 9-2 record the Sycamores brandish – including a signature victory at Vanderbilt – is evidence that ISU cleared the first hurdle of expectation to complete the successful season observers thought the Sycamores were capable of.

Now comes the second hurdle – conference play. A far more difficult nut to crack.

ISU begins the MVC portion of its schedule on Wednesday at Drake.

ISU has its best overall record going into conference play since it entered 2005-06 MVC action at 7-0. That Sycamore team would win eight to start the season before a David Moss injury sent the Sycamores tumbling into the bottom portion of the league.

The calling cards of the current Sycamores are their defensive prowess, depth and sound leadership from point guard Jake Odum. ISU has used all of the above to build its nonconference mark, and though the Sycamores have not always looked impressive at times, they feel that they call upon any of the aforementioned resources to be successful.

“I like our start in the nonconference. We’re 9-2 going into conference and the important thing is that we still have a lot of room to grow,” ISU shooting guard Jordan Printy said.

In what areas?

“I feel like we play well in stretches here and there, but we feel like we can improve a lot. We have to continue to work on our defense and work on our execution on the offensive end,” Printy said.

Offensively, the Sycamores have been inconsistent, combining stretches of white-hot shooting with other stretches of poor execution and turnovers. ISU’s far-more consistent defense has assured that the droughts that the Sycamores sometimes succumb to haven’t hurt them in too many games.

“I like the fact that we can lock down defensively. I feel like we need to get better at playing inside-out as opposed to playing outside-in. We need to get more post touches and get things started inside-out,” ISU forward Carl Richard said.

ISU will get no breaks in league play as every team expected to be good has been. Creighton has been nationally ranked throughout December and claimed a win over once-beaten Northwestern just before Christmas. Wichita State defeated No. 21 UNLV by 19 at home. Northern Iowa and Missouri State have also made noise.

“It’s kind of what I thought going into the year. I thought everyone would be better. It’s a scary thing. There’s a lot of good young players back with some quality veterans playing at a high level. The Missouri Valley has had a very good preseason and I think that should speak volumes of what happens at the end of the year,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

ISU’s strength in MVC play was its defense – the Sycamores had the best field-goal percentage defense in league play in 2011. But now that teams are more aware of the Sycamores’ M.O., does that alter how ISU has to approach opponents?

Lansing doesn’t think so.

“It’s up to us to prepare as well as possible. Teams coming in aren’t going to change what they do just because of how we guard them. They will play to their strengths. There’s too many quality coaches in this league to think they’re going to change based on what we do,” Lansing said.

As always, the early portion of the MVC schedule is taxing for all league teams. Seven games in the league’s 18-game league schedule will be played by Jan. 15, including three games in a stretch from Jan. 10-15.

A key stretch for ISU is from Jan. 13 to Feb. 8. It will play six of nine games away from Hulman Center.

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