Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
What I have seen blossom — and it’s the only reason flowers would be brought up in my column — is the Indiana State basketball team at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
From the beginning, I expected ISU’s nonconference schedule to be a laboratory of sorts. With seven players who had never played a game in an ISU uniform, the process of building chemistry, feeling out what each player’s strengths and weaknesses are, etc., would be a game-by-game process.
So far, that’s exactly how its played out.
There have been surprises — a 20-point blowout win at Ball State (the Cardinals are bad, but ISU hadn’t won there since 1986 and had just three games under its belt at the time) and a riveting overtime loss at home to then-unbeaten New Mexico.
And there have been surprises of the ugly sort, most notably, a poorly played 71-63 loss at Morehead State on Dec. 8.
Even though I knew full-well that ISU would have its ups and downs during this process, it was still an open question for me going into the Diamond Head Classic whether to be buoyant about where ISU might be headed or have doubts.
I thought the Diamond Head Classic would serve as a litmus test of which direction ISU could be expected to go. It’s not the culmination of where ISU is headed because even though most of us think of things in a nonconference/conference context, it’s never that simple, and ISU will continue to grow and have missteps during the MVC campaign.
But as a time-marking exercise, it’s as good a time as any to take the Sycamores’ season temperature.
After an 87-85 overtime win over Mississippi and a competitive 62-55 loss to No. 18 San Diego State, I think ISU fans should feel good about this team.
While some of the on-floor performances have been strong — Justin Gant has played much better, for example — it’s more than that. I’ve spent a lot of time with the team in Hawaii and they’ve done a good job developing team chemistry.
Team chemistry is a murky concept. The trick of good team chemistry is to make sure that chemistry translates to the games. Plenty of bad teams have good off-the-floor team chemistry. ISU is better now than it was in November at recognizing at each other’s tendencies and playing to strengths. That’s been crystal clear in Honolulu.
“What I’ve noticed, especially in the last two games, is we’ve been building chemistry. That’s huge for us. It’s another step in the right direction,” ISU guard Jake Odum said. “We’re just about there, but not quite, that’s why we lose games like this [to San Diego State], but you learn something and then you take a step forward.”
Another sign of progress is buy-in on the defensive end. To be honest, ISU’s offensive execution against San Diego State — with 17 turnovers and a few questionable shots — should have doomed the Sycamores to defeat long before the final two minutes of the game. Neither players or coaches were happy with the way the offense was executed, even when taking the Aztecs’ defensive quality into account.
Yet ISU was able to stay in the game despite not playing well. ISU didn’t always get stops — the Aztecs were the best team ISU has played this season and they weren’t going to be held down forever — but they got enough to stay in the game.
It wasn’t enough against the No. 18 Aztecs, but it will be against lesser foes.
In fact, ISU’s performances in its two games would be good enough to win against nearly every MVC team. San Diego State is better than any team in the MVC … Creighton included.
But what’s really struck me is something I don’t normally get to see. I’ve done something on this trip I’ve not done in my nine seasons on the beat. I’ve walked over to ISU’s hotel from my own and I’ve rode the team bus to and from games.
You might expect that it would be joyous ride back to the team hotel in the wake of the win over Ole Miss on Saturday, but it wasn’t. It was quiet. It was all business. ISU expected to win and expected to beat the Aztecs on Sunday.
There was disappointment after the loss to San Diego State, but there was no overreaction. There’s still another game to play. The Sycamores have had a healthy, even-keel approach before and after games.
ISU has grown through the nonconference season and has blossomed in the first two games in Hawaii. It’ll be fun to see if they reach full flower when MVC play begins on Sunday.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
MAX JONES: Dawn of new day in local elections
After a year off from the electoral process, counties across Indiana are gearing up for their next exercise in democratic politics, the 2014 primary election.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’
I’ve been thankful this winter for a full propane tank and ample cold cranking amps and school snow-delay days that have kept me off the roads until the sun is up on the most frigid of these mornings.
MAX JONES: Readers and writers — we’ve got lots of them
When people grab their daily newspaper, you can pretty much predict the reading path most will take. Readers have habits, as academic and professional surveys have shown.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Law hits poverty-stricken schools hard
Chuck Brimbury is no-excuses kind of guy.
MAX JONES: Digging for wisdom in Larrison’s lament
Ferocious winter storms have been a rarity in west-central Indiana in recent decades, even though heavy snow or sub-zero stretches of days drop in occasionally to remind us how miserable they can make us.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Plenty of ‘emptiness’ to go around at start of 2014 session
Last Tuesday’s cold start to the 2014 legislative session was warmed by the standing ovation given to House Minority Leader Scott Pelath following his traditional opening day remarks.
MARK BENNETT: The Drunk: Making peace
Terre Haute grew fond of Eugene Debs.
The process took time.
THE OFF SEASON: Seeing the miraculousness of the ordinary
It was just a few nights ago that I announced to my wife that I was headed outside to watch the International Space Station pass overhead.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Lying by the warm radioside
I am writing this piece well before Christmas Eve, although you wouldn’t think that it can be far away by the look of things out my windows tonight.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Meth labs so prevalent, test kits on market for homebuyers
Donetta Held knows how strange the world of methamphetamine is.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
This time don't use your head
My personal suggestion is leather helmets.
As frightening data on concussions filters its way from the National Football League on down to colleges, high schools and youth leagues, I can’t help but think back to the time when I was standing on the sidelines watching my teammates play.
Should Bears start Cutler? Yes
The enthusiasm surrounding Josh McCown’s performance in relief of the injured Jay Cutler is understandable.
But the thought that Bears made a mistake by announcing Jay Cutler as the starting quarterback Thursday? Wrong. Not only was Cutler playing well early in the year, but everyone around Cutler is more in tune with coach Marc Trestman's system now.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
Every year at about this time, Statehouse reporters like me ask lawmakers what their priorities will be for the coming year.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana
Oh, it’s on.
If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?
I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.
Larry’s Lessons: On a beautiful fall day at Hulman Center
I attended the unveiling of the Larry Bird statue on Saturday, Nov. 9, and found the proceedings to be wonderful.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘I’m going simply because I’ve got to … ’
Late in the year 1944, the great Hoosier war correspondent Ernie Pyle, mentally and physically exhausted from his months reporting from the battlefields of Europe, came home for the last time. He was scrawny and gray.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
TODD GOLDEN: Munn, Odum want to make paper accomplishment a real one
When it comes to Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, it has historically been a kick in the gut for Indiana State's basketball teams.
But not this year. For the first time since formal MVC preseason polls began in the mid-1980s, the Sycamores rule the MVC roost.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife
My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy
It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.
America, falling behind global peers
As Congress was descending further into dysfunction last week, this discouraging piece of news emerged: Despite how we Americans insist that we’re the best and brightest people on the globe, we’re not.
MAX JONES: Ernie Pyle’s IU legacy should be preserved
As an alum of Indiana University-Bloomington, where I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism many moons ago, I’ve been watching with keen interest the ongoing discussion about merging the School of Journalism with other areas of communications, such as PR and filmmaking, inside the College of Arts & Sciences.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
- More Columns Headlines
- MAX JONES: Dawn of new day in local elections