TERRE HAUTE —
The storybook was ready to be opened at Hulman Center on Saturday.
Down two with 4.5 seconds to go, Indiana State rebounded a free throw miss by Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. ISU senior point guard Odum timed his dash perfectly up the floor. He released his shot from just behind the 3-point line at just the right second. The shot was true and online.
Then the basketball gods cruelly slapped the storybook shut and smacked the Sycamores upside the head with it.
Odum’s shot hit nearly every inch of the cylinder, went about a quarter of the way down into the rim … and rattled out.
No storybook ending for the hometown standout. No win, as UNI survived with a 71-69 victory, and no shot of momentum heading into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament next Friday in St. Louis.
“Man … I don’t if it could have gone down any farther,” Odum said. “That’s just the way our season has been going of late. We really haven’t had the bounces and we haven’t played well either.”
But that shot … so heartbreaking. Odum was at a loss as to how it didn’t drop.
“I’ll tell you … I’ll think about that shot for a long time. That’s a tough one to go out on for sure,” Odum said. “I really wanted that one bad. It surprised me. It felt good, it was online, it felt soft, it felt like it hit the rim soft, but that’s the way it is sometimes. Balls don’t bounce your way.”
ISU coach Greg Lansing couldn’t believe that his hometown senior was denied a chance to earn a career-capping moment on his home floor.
“As soon as he let go of it, I knew it was going in. I thought it was going to be the perfect ending to his career at the Hulman Center. I really wanted it bad for him. That’s what hurts because you know how competitive he is and that’ll beat him up for a while,” Lansing said.
Odum’s near-miss wasn’t the only bit of anguish the Sycamores suffered in the waning moments. Trailing 70-69, senior Dawon Cummings was called for a charging foul with 5 seconds left as he penetrated towards the basket on the baseline. The controversial call — some felt UNI defender Nate Buss was in the charge circle when contact with Cummings was made — just added salt to the wounds of ISU’s loss.
“I felt like he was still moving a bit. I wanted to get to the rim and find someone else, which is what I did, but unfortunately they called a charging foul. Can’t say too much more about it. Just have to move on,” Cummings said. “It’s a part of basketball. It’s their judgment, their call.”
Lansing asked for clarification from official Zelton Steed, who made the call.
“I asked Z [Steed] at the timeout that I thought he was in the circle. He said he was not in the circle. Those are tough calls and officials have a tough job. That’s one where they’re trying to clean it up this year. You hope to get that block [call], but we didn’t,” Lansing said.
No matter how heartbreaking or how controversial aspects of the loss were, the bottom line is that ISU takes a three-game losing streak into Arch Madness. That’s a tough pill to swallow for the Sycamores, who felt they played better on Saturday than they had in their previous two losses.
“We fought awfully hard. I thought the game was lost at the start when we were tentative and in the second half with our turnovers. We were fighting uphill a lot during the game,” Lansing said.
The Sycamores were better from the field (48.1 percent) and had a small revival from 3-point range as the Sycamores hit 7 of 19. Odum led ISU with 16 points. Khristian Smith added 15. Manny Arop had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
But consistency was ISU’s hobgoblin. Good periods of play on both ends of the floor were contrasted by breakdowns and mistakes at other junctures. Ultimately, the latter proved to be ISU’s undoing.
Turnovers were an example. The Sycamores had 10, but they came in bunches. To wit, ISU led 46-35 early in the second half, but then squandered its lead in a 15-3 run that was kick-started by three ISU turnovers in as many possessions. UNI’s run put it up 50-49 and set up the potboiler that game turned out to be down the stretch.
It was a seesaw affair. ISU broke free to lead 62-58 with 6:54 to go, UNI answered with a 6-0 run to take a 64-62 lead, only to have ISU answer with five straight points to lead 67-64 with 4:22 left.
That would be ISU’s high mark. UNI center Seth Tuttle — who led all scorers with 23 — converted a traditional three-point play and a 3-point bucket in succession to put the Panthers up 70-67 with 3:40 left.
Neither team would score for almost three minutes. ISU victimized itself with questionable shots, including an off-balance hook by Cummings with 2:01 left. Odum’s 16-footer with 47 seconds left cut ISU deficit to one. ISU played good defense on UNI’s next possession, forcing a wild shot by Deon Mitchell that was well off the mark, but it ended in tears as Cummings’ charge and Odum’s near-miss sealed ISU’s fate.
The first half played out opposite from the second half as UNI started fast, but endured a late ISU rally.
UNI led 27-17 with 8:13 left in the opening half as the Panthers roasted ISU’s defense to the tune of seven scores in eight possessions. Up until that point, ISU was not attacking the basket consistently against UNI’s man defense.
That quickly changed. ISU finished the half on a 22-8 run and all but six of the points were scored inside the free throw line. The Sycamores’ lead was 39-35 at halftime. ISU’s second-half lead peaked at 11 before UNI rallied to get back into the contest.
In addition to Tuttle, ISU had trouble with lanky forward Nate Buss. He scored 14 points, had 11 rebounds and converted all four of his 3-point attempts.
“They got too many easy ones. That happens when you have really good players like they do,” Lansing said.
Locked into the MVC Tournament’s No. 2 seed for the better part of a month, ISU will play either No. 7-seeded Bradley or No. 10-seeded Loyola at 7 p.m. Friday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Sycamores drop third straight heading into postseason
TERRE HAUTE —
The storybook was ready to be opened at Hulman Center on Saturday.
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