By Todd Golden
TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State swingman Dwayne Lathan won’t play this afternoon when Evansville visits Hulman Center.
That doesn’t sound like good news. But considering that the Sycamores have been on pins and needles since Wednesday fearing the worst about the severity of Lathan’s leg injury, the fact that his MRI came up negative on Saturday and that Lathan didn’t suffer a long-term injury helped ISU’s men’s team heave a sigh of relief.
None more so than Lathan himself.
“I’m relieved. We lost Jake [Kelly, to a season-ending ACL tear] and I couldn’t believe it could have happened to me too,” Lathan said. “We’re looking at trying to get back by Wednesday [when ISU plays host to Wichita State], but it could be a week-and-a-half. I can walk OK, but it’s a matter of when I can get back to cutting and running.”
Lathan suffered a sprained left leg as he drove to the basket during the second half of ISU’s 91-85 overtime loss at Bradley on Wednesday. Lathan also suffered a hand injury in the first half, but he played through that pain before he suffered his leg injury in the second half.
“Initially, they thought it was worse when it happened. Hopefully, he can get back quick. It’s healing at a rapid rate, so that’s a good sign. The sooner we get him back the better,” ISU coach Kevin McKenna said.
Winter weather slowed down the process of finding out the severity of Lathan’s injury. Snow kept Lathan from travelling to Indianapolis as planned on Thursday to be checked out. An attempt to go to Indianapolis on Friday was wiped out by an accident on I-70 that prevented the sophomore from making his appointment. The MRI was eventually analyzed and no tear was found.
Lathan is ISU’s leading scorer at 13.1 points and its leading rebounder at 5.2 boards.
“I’ve never missed a game before, so it’s going to be hard on me. I hope someone steps up and makes my plays for me against Evansville,” Lathan said.
The Sycamores (10-5, 2-2) dealt with his absence Wednesday with red-hot 3-point shooting — the Sycamores shot 11 of 18 from 3-point range in the second half to wipe out a 16-point halftime deficit against Bradley. That kind of shooting can’t be counted upon on a game-to-game basis, but McKenna feels good about handing the keys to Aaron Carter, who along with Carl Richard, will likely absorb most of the minutes at the small forward spot. That means Jordan Printy will get more minutes at the guard spots.
“We have a team full of tough guys. On any given day, somebody can come up in somebody else’s place. That’s why our practices are so competitive. It’s a competition for minutes. If someone goes down, there’s always someone who can play their position until they come back,” Richard said.
Richard, who has played power forward through most of his ISU career, has no problem playing at the three-spot.
“When I first came here, [the ISU coaches] said I’d be playing the three, but due to circumstances, I ended up playing the four. The three is my natural position, so if that’s where they want me to play, I’ll play there,” Richard said.
Evansville (6-8, 0-4) is the least-experienced team in the Missouri Valley Conference, having lost Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger, among others, from last year’s 17-14 squad.
The Purple Aces’ most productive players are sophomores and freshmen. Evansville has one of the best Valley freshmen in Batesville native Colt Ryan, the only freshman who ranks in the league’s top 20 in scoring at 14.4 points per game. Sophomore James Haarsma is the Valley’s second-leading rebounder at 8.4. Freshman Troy Taylor is fourth in the Valley in assists at 3.5. Sophomore Denver Holmes averages 10 points per game.
The Aces are second in the league in rebounding margin at plus-6.1, which will test ISU’s big men. Evansville did lose one-time ISU recruit Bryan Bouchie this week as he left the team due to health reasons.
“They’ve got some good young players and some athleticism at the guard spot. They set a ton of screens,” McKenna said.
The game will begin at 1:30 p.m. and it will be broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest.
Evansville at ISU
Tipoff — 1:35 p.m. at Hulman Center.
Broadcasts — TV: Fox Sports Midwest. Radio: WSDM (92.7-FM). Live blog: blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley
Last time out — ISU lost 91-85 in overtime to Bradley and Evansville fell 82-63 to Illinois State on Wednesday.
Series — ISU leads 75-74. The teams have traded season sweeps in the last two years, with Evansville sweeping ISU last season after the Sycamores had done the same in 2008.
Indiana State Sycamores (10-5, 2-2) -- G Harry Marshall (6-0, Sr., 11.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Jordan Printy (6-4, So., 5.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Rashad Reed (6-1, Sr., 8.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg); F Carl Richard (6-5, So., 6.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg); and C Brant Leitnaker (6-10, Jr., 3.9) are possible starters. G-F Aaron Carter (6-4, Jr., 4.4 ppg); F Koang Doluony (6-8, Fr., 3 ppg); C Josh Crawford (6-11, Sr., 2.9) and C Isiah Martin (6-8, Jr., 2.8) are key contributors off the bench.
Coach — Kevin McKenna (36-42 at ISU, 3rd year; 126-75 overall, 7th year).
Evansville Purple Aces (6-8, 0-4) -- F James Haarsma (6-7, So., 12.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg); F Denver Holmes (6-4, So., 10 ppg); C Clint Hopf (6-8, Jr., 4.3 ppg, 4 rpg); G Colt Ryan (6-5, Fr., 14.4, 4.6 rpg) and G Ned Cox (6-1, Fr., 6.3) are possible starters. G Kavon Lacey (6-0, Jr., 5.5); G Monie Hudson (6-0, Jr., 2.1); G Lewis Jones (6-3, Fr., 1.9) and C Pieter van Tongeren (6-10, Jr., 3.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg) are key contributors off the bench.
Coach — Marty Simmons (32-43, 3rd year at Evansville, 130-116, 9th year).
Injuries — For ISU, G Jake Kelly (knee) is out for the season. F Dwayne Lathan (leg) is out.
Keys to the game
• Keep Evansville off the boards. The Aces are the second-best rebounding team in the conference, so ISU's big men are going to need to be on their game. Some point production from the Sycamore big men would help in a big way.
• Limit turnovers when Harry Marshall isn't in the game. This primarily falls on Rashad Reed, who needs to make good decisions with the ball and not try to force passes that aren't there.
Tidbit — Former Evansville center Bryan Bouchie, who left the UE program this week due to health reasons, chose Evansville over ISU when he transferred from Valparaiso in 2008.
Next games — ISU plays host to Wichita State and Evansville is at Illinois State on Wednesday.
— Todd Golden