TERRE HAUTE —
With Indiana State’s men’s basketball team playing just once a week in the first half of December, it’s given the players and the coaches ample time to get out their toolbox and go to work tinkering, tweaking and fixing.
ISU resumes game action at 2 p.m. today as it travels to Morehead State, the return game of a BracketBusters match-up from the 2011 season. But the focus through the course of practice wasn’t so much the Eagles as it was on the Sycamores themselves. There are six games of evidence to fall back on to point out things to improve upon.
“The biggest thing is we need to mature as a team. We make the same mistakes too many times. Guys take turns making the same mistakes and we can’t do that,” coach Greg Lansing said. “We have a really hard-working group, but we have to tighten things up in a lot of areas. We haven’t beaten a team that would finish in the top half of our league yet.”
How does that translate to practice time? Each unit was given something to improve upon. ISU forward R.J. Mahurin spoke for ISU’s bigs.
“We have to start contributing a little more. We have to start rebounding,” Mahurin said. “There’s a lot of little things we need to do that we haven’t been doing a good job of. We haven’t been boxing out on offensive boards. We have to dip in and seal guys. Just little things we haven’t been doing well.”
On the perimeter, ISU point guard Jake Odum has seen things that need to be tweaked.
“We’re watching film to understand what we’ve done well and what we’ve done poorly. We’ve been working hard on our spacing on the floor,” Odum said. “We’re getting shots up, but haven’t shot well so far. For us to be good, we have to knock down shots.”
If ISU is using torque wrenches and needle-nose pliers on various aspects of its game, it wants to take a band saw to its free throw shooting.
ISU is shooting just 65 percent at the line. Odum (77.6 percent) is the only Sycamore who is shooting better than 70 percent.
It wasn’t long ago (2010) that ISU was among the nation’s best free throw shooting teams, but that’s a distant memory. ISU is currently ranked 251st among 345 Division I teams.
Needless to say, free throw shooting has been an emphasis in practice. On Thursday, free throw shooting drills were conducted twice in the middle of regular drills. If you missed, the team ran.
“Free throws have been very poor. It’s embarrassing really,” Odum said. “But we’ve been in every morning. We’ve been shooting 100 free throws apiece between classes. That mental preparation and knowing we can knock them down is a key.”
Morehead State is coached by Sean Woods, who was recently suspended for a game for a sideline dust-up with one of his players in a game at Kentucky. The Eagles have not won since.
More germane to ISU is Morehead’s style under Woods, who played under Rick Pitino at Kentucky. The Eagles like to force mistakes by putting pressure on the ball.
“They’re going to pressure us and chase us all over the place. This is a game where you have to take care of the ball and not panic under that kind of pressure,” Lansing said.
n Future schedule — Lansing announced this week that ISU would be playing in the Great Alaska Shootout in the 2013-14 season and will play a two-for-one series against Purdue. That series won’t likely begin until 2014-15 at the earliest.
Butler will also make its BracketBusters return visit to Hulman Center and an additional home-and-home series was initiated with the Bulldogs.
But wait … there’s more.
ISU is also slated to play in Las Vegas in 2014-15 and in Cancun, Mexico in 2015-16. The Las Vegas tournament also allows ISU to host two teams before it plays in the desert.
“Doug Elgin [Missouri Valley Conference commissioner] wants us to play in a multi-team event every year, so I schedule them in advance. I want these guys to play in great venues and great tournaments,” Lansing said.
ISU at Morehead State
Tipoff — 2 p.m. at Ellis T. Johnson Arena, Morehead, Ky.
Broadcasts — Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5. Twitter: @TribStarTodd
Last time out — ISU lost 77-68 in overtime to No. 18 New Mexico on Dec. 1. Morehead State lost 69-57 at home to North Dakota State on Wednesday.
Series — Morehead State leads 3-2. The Eagles won the last meeting 71-65 in 2011 at Hulman Center. ISU is 0-2 all-time at Morehead State.
Indiana State Sycamores (4-2) — G Jake Odum (6-4, Jr., 15.2, 4.8 rpg, 4.7 apg), G Lucas Eitel (6-2, Jr., 8.3), F Manny Arop (6-6, Jr., 9.5, 6.5 rpg), F Jake Kitchell (6-10, So., 2.7) and C Justin Gant (6-8, So., 7.3, 5.3 rpg) are possible starters. F R.J. Mahurin (6-8, Jr., 9.3, 4.2 rpg), G-F Khristian Smith (6-6, Fr., 7.7), G Dawon Cummings (6-4, Jr., 5.3), G Devonte Brown (6-3, Fr., 2.5), F-C Rhett Smith (6-7, Fr., 0 ppg) and G Brandon Burnett (6-6, Fr., 0 ppg) are key reserves.
Coach — Greg Lansing (42-31 at ISU, 3rd year).
Morehead State Eagles (4-5) — G Devon Atkinson (6-1, Sr., 7.8, 4.5 apg), G Angelo Warner (6-3, So., 8.1), F Bruce Reed (6-7, Jr., 2.3), F Milton Chavis (6-6, Sr., 14.2, 4.4 rpg) and F-C Kahlil Owens (6-7, Sr., 6.4, 5.7 rpg) are possible starters. G Jarrett Stokes (6-1, Jr., 6.1), G Bakari Turner (6-4, Jr., 5.9), F Maurice Lewis-Briggs (6-8, Jr., 6.9), F Drew Kelly (6-7, Jr., 4.9), C Chad Posthumus (6-11, Jr., 6 ppg) and F Jason Holmes (6-9, Sr., 3 ppg) are key reserves.
Coach — Sean Woods (4-5 at Morehead State, 1st year; 54-85, 5th year overall).
Injuries — For ISU, C Mike Samuels (foot) is out. C Justin Gant (flu) is questionable.
Next — ISU plays at IUPUI next Saturday. Morehead State plays at South Dakota on Wednesday.
— Todd Golden