WICHITA, Kan. —
It’s one game at a time for Indiana State’s men’s basketball team this season. Until it’s not.
The Sycamores have stuck by that time-worn cliché and it’s paid dividends for them. A seven-game win streak and 12 wins in their last 13 games have been the reward.
But even the Sycamores know today is different. At 4 p.m. — in front of a national television audience on ESPN2 — ISU goes into the belly of the beast. A visit to No. 5 Wichita State, the highest-ranked team ISU has played since the 1979 NCAA championship game against No. 4 Michigan State.
It’s undefeated Wichita State … inside the cauldron that is Charles Koch Arena, the ear-splitting madhouse it calls home.
It is the MVC summit meeting and it is the most compelling Valley game of the season so far.
For ISU, it’s one of its biggest regular-season games in recent memory. Perhaps its most visible since the 2000 season when it won its last MVC championship. A win on the Shockers’ home floor would almost certainly thrust the Sycamores into NCAA Tournament consideration.
It’s a game many hoped would come off. Whispers about it began when both teams went two weeks without a conference loss.
After both survived scares last Saturday — Wichita State won in overtime at Missouri State and ISU slipped past Bradley in Hulman Center — the Shockers and Sycamores looked every bit the part of the MVC’s upper crust in their mid-week games. Both cruised with easy home victories against Bradley (for WSU on Tuesday) and Missouri State (for ISU on Wednesday).
ISU (14-3 overall) and WSU (18-0) have broken from the rest of the MVC pack. Both are 5-0 in conference action and enjoy a two-game cushion over the nearest MVC team.
Now the excitement is about to reach its crescendo.
The temptation might be for the Sycamores to fake it and act like it’s just another game. But it’s not and they acknowledged that.
“I’d be kidding you if I wasn’t thinking about it at times when I see their scores,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
Normally laid-back ISU swingman Manny Arop could hardly restrain his enthusiasm.
“As much as I want to tell you it’s another game in conference? It’s not for us. It’s a big opportunity for any team to play Wichita, an undefeated team and No. 5 in the country. As a competitor? That’s what you dream of,” said Arop on Thursday.
“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of excitement. I couldn’t wait to get on the floor today and get into preparation. I couldn’t wait to get up extra shots, watch film, go over the scouting report. The whole process. Yeah, it’s another conference game, but it has extra meaning because they’re so good. You have to give it to them,” Arop added.
Mind you, this was a practice the day after a game for the Sycamores, normally a day to rest and decompress. But the depth of the Shockers’ talent is such that ISU couldn’t afford to back off much.
Where does one start with the Shockers? There’s Preseason MVC Player of the Year Cleanthony Early, one of the best forwards in the country. He’s averaging 16 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
There’s sophomore point guard Fred Van Vleet, who recently had four straight games without a turnover and whose conference-leading assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.5 — nearly two points better than second-place Jake Odum at 2.7. Appropriately, Van Vleet and Odum share the conference assist lead at 5.2 apiece.
“He’s a big-time player. He’s not out of control. He gets the ball to guys at the right time and he’s really efficient,” Odum said.
Then there’s dead-eye sharpshooter Ron Baker — whom the Sycamores didn’t match wits with last year due to a stress fracture that knocked him out of most of the MVC’s regular season.
He returned for the MVC Tournament and the shooting guard was a major reason the Shockers advanced to the 2013 Final Four. Baker averages 12.8 points and has made 39.5 percent of his 3-point shots. He’s also an 86.5-percent free-throw shooter.
But one player whose stats don’t tell his tale is starting guard Tekele Cotton. His 9.6 points per game seem perfunctory until you see him play defense.
Put simply, the WSU junior is the best on-ball defender in the MVC. He can take away a team’s best scorer, small or tall. He guarded Odum and Arop in the last year’s games and he’s also been the designated stopper on scorers like Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
“He’s a versatile defender and he definitely sets the tone for them,” Odum said.
The Sycamores’ advantage over the Shockers is their depth. ISU has scorers eight-deep into its rotation while the Shockers only go about six-deep in theirs. Moreover, the status of WSU guard Evan Wessel is probable. He missed Tuesday’s game against Bradley with an ankle sprain.
WSU has stopping power (it has held opponents to a MVC-low 60.7 points), but ISU’s multitude of options will test the Shockers’ defense. ISU leads the MVC in scoring at 76.7 points. It’s immovable object vs. irresistible force, MVC-style.
ISU has played in hostile environments before and responded well. Part of the current ISU roster won at No. 25 Vanderbilt in 2011-12 and nearly all of them had a hand in ISU’s 68-55 victory at Wichita State last year. ISU won at then-No. 25 Notre Dame in November when the Fighting Irish still had leading-scorer Jerian Grant calling the shots.
“I thrive off energy, whether’s it’s home or away crowd energy. I’m an emotional player and I love that stuff. I love playing in Wichita,” Arop said.
A win would continue ISU’s best MVC start since 1979 and an eight-game win streak would be its longest since it started 8-0 in 2005-06. ISU last won two in a row in Wichita in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Sycamores and Shockers face off for conference supremacy
WICHITA, Kan. —
It’s one game at a time for Indiana State’s men’s basketball team this season. Until it’s not.
Rose-Hulman, Woods to face off on softball diamond
The Rose-Hulman softball team will visit a familiar foe today when the Engineers take on crosstown rival Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in a nonleague doubleheader.
ISU baseball holds off Eastern Illinois for 24th win
Indiana State freshman left-hander Ryan Keaffaber won his first game as a Sycamore and senior catcher Mike Fitzgerald went 3 for 3 as ISU defeated host Eastern Illinois 6-4 in college baseball Tuesday.
Top returners lead Cream over Crimson in Hoosiers' spring game
The Cream team at Saturday’s Cream and Crimson intrasquad game had Indiana’s top returning rusher and receiver and the Hoosiers’ top-rated passer from last season.
No surprise, then, that Tevin Coleman, Shane Wynn and Tre Roberson guided the Cream to a resounding 24-14 win over the Crimson.
Rose-Hulman baseball gets wild doubleheader sweep
Host Rose-Hulman came back from an early six-run deficit in the first game Saturday and went on to a 13-12, 7-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball sweep over Mount St. Joseph.
The wild opener featured a Rose-Hulman comeback from an 8-2 deficit and included 18 hits and two school records for the Engineers.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU softball earns doubleheader sweep at Missouri State
Yvette Alvarez’s one-hit shutout capped a dominant day of pitching Saturday as Indiana State swept a Missouri Valley Conference softball doubleheader at Missouri State by scores of 6-1 and 4-0.
“We pitched well,” coach Shane Bouman said. “Both Taylor Lockwood in the first game and Yvette Alvarez in the second game threw great. When you pitch good and you play good defense and get some key hits, good things are going to happen.
ISU football set for first spring scrimmage
Thanks to a limited number of available offensive linemen — a group that will at least double in numbers in the fall with the addition of recruits and currently injured players — the Sycamores won’t have a full-scale scrimmage, but will still intersperse scrimmage plays (with officials) among other practice drills.
“We’re thin,” coach Mike Sanford admitted after practice Thursday. “The scrimmage will be part of practice — probably 30 or 40 plays altogether. We only have five to seven healthy offensive linemen, so we can’t go [in a scrimmage format] for long stretches of time.”
METRO ROUNDUP: Waltman's funeral Saturday at Indianapolis
Royce Waltman’s visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Luke’s Methodist Church at 100 E. 86th Street, Indianapolis.
ISU baseball falls to Vanderbilt 6-2
The seventh-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores took control early to defeat the Indiana State Sycamores 6-2
ISU baseball sweeps doubleheader against Wichita State
Indiana State baseball coach Mitch Hannahs finally got what he’s been looking for from the Sycamores’ Friday and Saturday starters ... and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite Wichita State is in town for a crucial series. With ISU 2-4 in the league, it was vital for the Sycamores to validate their better-than-expected form in nonconference play with MVC success in Saturday’s doubleheader at Bob Warn Field.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman's nine-game winnings streak snapped
Rose-Hulman had its nine-game winning streak snapped with two tightly contested losses at defending Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champion Manchester on Saturday.
Sycamores get commitment from junior-college point guard
Following Indiana State’s loss to Marquette in the WNIT, coach Teri Moren touched on the future of the program after the loss of Sycamore senior Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir.
Prusator gives ISU a shooter for 2015
Grant Prusator, a native of Rochelle, Ill., has made a verbal commitment to play basketball for Indiana State starting in the 2014-15 season. He will have three years of eligibility with the Sycamores as he played just one year for Highland Community College.
Metro sports: Locks of Love tournament today at Memorial Stadium
The Indiana State Women’s Soccer team will host its annual Locks of Love tournament today. The 4th annual event will begin at 9 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Indiana State secondary could be mending into a strength
During Indiana State’s injury-ravaged 2013 season, there wasn’t a unit on either side of the ball that was spared from the carnage.
But if one had to be singled out as hardest hit in the injury department, it would be difficult to out-do the Sycamores’ secondary.
Every player that started in ISU’s season opener at Indiana not only missed at least one game last season, but the entire starting unit was out of action by the end of September.
Reed named Midseason National Player of the Year
Half of the college baseball season is done and one prominent college baseball publication thinks Terre Haute’s A.J. Reed is best player in the land.
Reed, a junior at Kentucky, was named the Midseason National Player of the Year by Perfect Game USA, a website devoted to college baseball.
Laramie to transfer from ISU women's basketball program
Indiana State forward Marina Laramie averaged 9.9 points and started all 32 games as a sophomore for the Sycamores.
But the 6-foot-2 women’s basketball player will continue her career elsewhere.
Metro sports: ISU blanks Austin Peay in 6-plus innings
Indiana State’s baseball team posted another mid-week victory Wednesday night as four pitchers combined to throw a three-hit shutout and lead a 3-0 victory over Austin Peay State at Bob Warn Field.
Chicago guard commits to ISU women's basketball
The Indiana State women’s basketball team picked up a verbal commitment from Chicago guard Kiera Brooks on Tuesday.
The 5-foot-7 junior for North Lawndale College Prep visited ISU’s campus for the first time, met the team and chose her college home. Brooks averaged 18.7 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals for coach Corey Morgan’s 15-11 squad.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU softball tops IU 7-5
The Indiana State softball team remained a perfect 13-0 when scoring in the first inning as it defeated Indiana (9-24-1) 7-5 Tuesday for its second consecutive victory over a Big Ten opponent.
Dedicated to helping others
It’s not like Marissa Stout is bored out of her mind and lacking for things to do.
Metro sports: ISU’s Stone, Riemenschneider honored by MVC
Indiana State junior Megan Stone and freshman Brooke Riemenschneider each earned Missouri Valley Conference Athlete of the Week honors, according to an announcement from the league office Monday.
ISU baseball shows mental toughness in win over Illinois State
When the pressure’s on, there’s nothing a coach likes more than to see his team double down on their approach and grit out a positive result.
Going the distance: Redbirds ace Savas allows just five hits while shutting down Sycamores
Indiana State’s pitchers weren’t their best in Friday’s series opener against Illinois State, but it seemed the Sycamores might get away with it. Through seven innings, ISU had issued six walks, gave up six hits and hit a batter, but still trailed by just a run. But ISU’s luck with its generosity would give out in the eighth, and even if it hadn’t, Illinois State standout starter Dan Savas had the Sycamores’ bats in a deep freeze anyway. The Redbirds defeated the Sycamores 5-2 at Bob Warn Field.
Woods softball team wins 4th straight
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods softball team swept Grace College with a pair of wins in its home opener Wednesday.
Devoted brothers: Mahurins relish chance to team up and win NAIA title
It wasn’t a great year for NCAA basketball in the Hoosier state outside of Indiana State’s 23-victory season.
But a team in NAIA Division II with eight Indiana natives — and coached by former Valparaiso point guard Greg Tonagel, an Indiana All-Star for his hometown of LaPorte — brought home a national basketball championship.
Tonagel, the scrappy point guard who played alongside Bryce Drew for that magical Valpo team, created more March hoops memories with the help of Rockville brothers R.J. and Lane Mahurin.
‘A full night’: Leadoff hitter Curry leads 16-hit attack as Sycamores pound Hoosiers
Lead-off man Landon Curry had four of Indiana State’s 16 hits Wednesday afternoon, and cleanup hitter Mike Fitzgerald reached for the 17th straight game to lead the Sycamores to a 12-8 victory.
Fresh start: ISU football team springs into action for coach Sanford’s second season
Many things change from year one to year two in someone’s coaching regime, but when it comes to football, few things change more dramatically in that span than spring football practice.
Etherington, Hollowell leaving IU
Two players are leaving Indiana University’s basketball program while a third is reportedly planning to leave early for the NBA. IU confirmed Monday afternoon that redshirt sophomore Austin Etherington and sophomore Jeremy Hollowell will transfer.
Metro sports: Rose's Stull, Schultheis earn HCAC honors
Rose-Hulman took two Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors this week, with Andrew Stull and Austin Schultheis recognized for their work over the weekend.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU never kicked down the door in 2014
After Indiana State’s 91-71 loss Tuesday at Arkansas in the National Invitation Tournament, and in the days since, I can’t help but think of Bum Phillips and the 1980 Houston Oilers as I ponder Indiana State's 2013-14 men's basketball season.
Stay with me.
The Oilers had lost to the all-conquering Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1978 and 1979 AFC Championship games. Despite that, it seemed the Earl Campbell-led squad was the team of destiny to knock the Steel Curtain off their perch.
So much so that Phillips, the wonderfully colorful Oilers coach, said the Oilers would "kick the door down", knock off their black-and-gold nemesis, and win the AFC Central in 1980.
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