TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State guard Jake Odum said prior to Saturday’s game against Belmont that he wanted to rely more on his instincts.
That’s never a bad thing for the Sycamores.
Odum picked his spots impeccably against a good Belmont team on Saturday. Given the chance to dish in the first half, he kept his teammates fed. Given the chance to score in the second half? He went to the basket with purpose.
Odum had 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals as ISU defeated Belmont 85-73 in Hulman Center.
“It’s nice playing a team twice. You can see what they did to you before. I was ready to see a change in defense. They stuck to our shooters, so I was able to get to the lane, especially in the second half,” Odum said.
Twenty of Odum’s points came in the second half. Belmont coach Rick Byrd knew what his Bruins needed to do to stop Odum … they just couldn’t do it.
“He twists around, draws the contact, he still makes the shot. What you need to do is make him take tough shots. … You can’t foul him and you can’t help too quick off of him because he’ll find open people,” Byrd said. “I’m telling you I know all of this, but we still couldn’t do anything about it.”
It was Odum’s finest effort of the season, and in many ways, it also was one of the highest points of the season for ISU since its win at Notre Dame in November.
Defensively, the tale was told by Belmont’s second-half 3-point shooting. Nearly every Bruin can shoot from 3-point range, making it a difficult task for ISU’s defenders as they chased shooters down while the Bruins wisely spread the floor.
Belmont’s 3-of-12 shooting in the second half prevented the Bruins from the kind of second-half outburst they had in the season’s previous meeting Nov. 14. In that game, Belmont shot 50 percent from 3-point range and wiped out a 16-point halftime deficit for a 96-95 victory.
Not this time.
“I’m really pleased with that. They score 40 percent of their points from 3-point range. We wanted to make them do something else to beat us other than catching and shooting threes. The guys did an excellent job in the second half of fighting it,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
ISU did an excellent job on dangerous gunner J.J. Mann. He scored just six points. Manny Arop had the defensive assignment for much of the game and played well.
“We didn’t help from him. You can’t leave him at all. You have to guard him five feet outside the 3-point line and fight his catch and make him have to bounce it,” Lansing said.
In a game that was tied nine times and had 13 lead changes, the Sycamores broke through with 10 minutes to go. Odum scored on a runner with 10:03 left to make it 51-50.
It was followed by a Khristian Smith 3-pointer and an Odum traditional three-point play sandwiched around a Belmont bucket to make it 57-52.
Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw — who led the Bruins with 18 points — went on a personal assault as he scored on three straight possesions. What saved ISU from being overwhelmed at that point was Demetrius Moore.
Moore answered two of Bradshaw’s buckets with a pair of his own and kept the Sycamores’ offense cranking. Moore was 5 of 7 from the field with 10 points and six rebounds.
Moore had a breakout December. His finishing near the basket was deadly as he converted 19 of 24 field goal attempts and averaged 7.6 points in five December games.
“I’ve been doing extra work to stay in shape, but these guys are pushing me everyday. I’m taking what defenses are giving me. I saw an opening and attacked it,” Moore said.
Odum said Moore’s performance has been a “big surprise” given the time it usually takes for a junior college player to adjust to Division I play. That goes double for Moore, who sat out a year before he came to ISU. Odum called him an “unsung hero”.
“He’s definitely been our most efficient player,” said Odum, who pointed out that Moore’s attributes go beyond scoring. “He finishes strong down low, he talks on the defensive end, slides his feet and does what he needs to do on ball screens.”
ISU finished with panache. An 8-1 run gave ISU a 69-61 lead and the Bruins (8-6) couldn’t shoot their way out of their hole. ISU’s largest lead was it’s final 12-point margin.
The second half was a sharp contrast to a first half that was less basketball than bombing raid. Both teams were on their game from long-range and shot a combined 13 of 23 3-point percentage. ISU was 6 of 9.
For a time, ISU’s conversion of Belmont turnovers turned the game ISU’s way as it built a 19-11 advantage. ISU scored 13 first-half points off Belmont giveaways.
But ISU’s half-court offense bogged mid-half. ISU’s slump gave the sharp-shooting Bruins the window they needed for a 14-5 run to take a four-point lead.
ISU got its act together in the final four minutes, scored on five straight possessions, and led by two at halftime.
In addition to Odum and Moore’s productive days, Arop had 16 points and six rebounds. Khristian Smith and Justin Gant each had 10 points.
ISU (9-3) opens Missouri Valley Conference at home against Loyola on New Year’s Day. ISU still has things it wants to work on, but the win over a solid program has the Sycamores feeling good about themselves.
“After that one, I feel a lot better. We’ve all kind of felt like, and I think the fans and the media were all like, ‘We’re not playing very good.’ That’s exactly as I’ve felt,” Lansing said. “If we just play hard all of the time, we’re a lot better. It’s hard to play harder than Belmont, but we played extremely hard and competed.”
Sycamores avenge earlier loss at Belmont with win in Hulman Center
TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State guard Jake Odum said prior to Saturday’s game against Belmont that he wanted to rely more on his instincts.
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