OMAHA, Neb. —
When Indiana State was on its six-game early January winning streak that saw it rise to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference, team chemistry was seemingly the biggest reason for the success.
There’s no doubt it played a huge role — success always helps chemistry — but part and parcel with that was the fact that ISU achieved the correct balance of performance on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. ISU stayed patient on the offensive end and limited the turnovers that had killed it in the nonconference slate. On the defensive end, ISU threw opponents off with disciplined quickness.
In the wake of a three-game losing streak — ISU’s 83-69 loss to Creighton being a continuation of a poor second-half against Evansville — it’s clear the Sycamores have lost that balance. The tempo has changed for the worse.
“We’re the opposite now of what we had been. We’re pressing offensively and we’re slow on defense when it should be the other way around. We should be patient on offense and try to press the issue on defense,” ISU forward Carl Richard said.
ISU was too quick on the offensive end against Creighton on Saturday and the result was predictable. The Sycamores had 20 turnovers, which led to 26 Bluejays’ points. ISU also shot 37.5 percent from the field, not terrible, but a lot of missed shots were rushed.
ISU wasn’t quick enough on the defensive end against Creighton, and the Bluejays have the horses to make the Sycamores pay a heavy price. Creighton shot 47.1 percent from 3-point range as the Sycamores were late to close in on shooters Doug McDermott, Josh Jones and Jahenns Manigat. That trio combined to shoot 9 of 13 from long range.
Lack of response on the defensive end also led to an avalanche of ISU fouls. Creighton went to the line a whopping 41 times, converting 31 of them. It was one of the biggest differences in the game as Creighton made just one more field goal than ISU did.
“At halftime, I put on the greaseboard: fouls and turnovers. You can’t beat any team with 20 turnovers. Defensively, we’re not flying around as much as we used to. We’re out of position because of it and we bail them out with a foul. It breaks you down, and we got defeated when things weren’t going well for us,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
Turnovers and fouling while defending are demons the Sycamores can’t seem to exorcise. It’s as frustrating for the Sycamores themselves as it is for ISU’s coaches and fans to watch it.
“Coaches tell us everyday in practice, ‘Keep your hands off of them, don’t foul the shooter, don’t jump on head-fakes’ and we keep doing the same thing over and over again. It’s losing us games,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.
Odum also noted that lack of defense affects ISU’s ability to execute on the offensive end.
“We win our games on defense. If we don’t allow a team to score 60 points, we win most of our games. It’s slowing us down on offense, we’re putting our heads down, and we’re not moving as well as we were when we were winning. We’ve kind of hit a wall,” Odum said.
ISU’s body language wasn’t encouraging throughout the Creighton game; the Sycamores looked like a team that was looking for something bad to happen instead of imposing its ability on the game to make something good happen.
None of the Sycamores felt the team has permanently lost the mojo they had during the six-game winning streak, but neither do they think it’s just going to re-appear without some effort on their part.
“I don’t think we’ve lost our chemistry. We hit a high point and we felt like we were going to stay there. The more you win, the harder it is to win every game. We need to get back to that sense of urgency and pick our defense up,” Richard said.
ISU is still in a position to make something of this season. Wichita State comes to Hulman Center on Tuesday. With free tickets available with the donation of a canned good at the Hulman Center ticket office, and with a White Out planned, ISU’s fans have a chance to give the Sycamores some of their mojo back by not abandoning them when things have turned for the worse.
But Odum knows it’s ultimately on the players to get their groove back.
“We just have to get our confidence back. The last couple of games we’ve just hung our heads. We have to forget about it and move forward. We can get back to where we were. We have the same players. It’s just a matter of executing the gameplan and following the scouting report,” Odum said.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.