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Indiana State University

December 20, 2013

Novelty for ISU men … a home game

Sycamores return home to face IUPUI

TERRE HAUTE — Since Indiana State last played inside Hulman Center, a holiday was celebrated, a budget was passed, an oil well was drilled on campus, and shopping days until Christmas went from 31 to just four.

Though it might seem like it, it hasn’t actually been an eternity since ISU last played a home — it was Nov. 23 against Truman State — but in a basketball season that lasts five months, a one-month absence is a sizable wait between home games.

Since then, the Sycamores have played six neutral court or true road games in four states. ISU coach Greg Lansing estimated that the Sycamores traveled 11,000 miles during that time period, a large chunk of being the trip to Alaska in November.

The Sycamores endless road show ends today as it hosts IUPUI at 3:35 p.m., part of a men’s-women’s doubleheader. It begins a stretch where ISU plays five of its next seven in Terre Haute.

“I’m disappointed with how we’ve played and some of the things we’ve done, but I give these guys a little bit of a break with the travel we’ve had. To be 7-3 and only played two home games? It’s not terrible. It’s not where we want to be, but it’s good to be back home,” Lansing said.

Since ISU practices inside ISU Arena far more often than it used to, Hulman Center is an exotic location for the Sycamores. ISU has practiced just five times there in a month.

“It’s nice to play at home, especially coming off the loss to Saint Louis. We look forward to our home crowd helping us build momentum before we go into conference,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.

One thing Jake Odum wouldn’t do is blame the road games for, as he put it, the team’s “loss of mojo”. Much of what ISU hasn’t done was laid bare by Saint Louis in an 83-66 loss on Wednesday, a team Odum said was among the toughest defensively he’s faced at ISU. Though ISU is 7-3, it hasn’t won style points, even in some of its wins.

“We need to turn it around, and when I say that, I mean that you can win games and still play bad. We have to play to our ability,” Odum said. “We haven’t done that this year, but maybe that’s the way it needs to be. Maybe we’ll peak later on in the season instead of peaking early like we did last year.”

ISU wants improvement on both sides of ball. Attainment of the defensive identity ISU seeks has been a tail-chasing exercise all season long, but some cracks were evident offensively too, especially against the hard-nosed Billikens.

ISU’s movement away from the ball was not up to snuff in its last two contests. Against Missouri-Kansas City, ISU got away with it because it could drive the basket without much resistance. It was a different matter against SLU.

“They fought the catch. They made every one a difficult one and that freezes you. It stagnates you. When we watched the [SLU] tape, we had one guy dribbling and four guys standing around. You have to take their pressure and counter it, not let it bog you down,” Lansing said.

IUPUI (4-9) has struggled and comes into the game after a 62-56 home loss to Nicholls State on Wednesday. Guard Ian Chiles is IUPUI’s most prolific scorer at 18.1 points per game, but the Jaguars rate in the lower half of Division I in nearly every offensive category.

Still, it’s dangerous to sleep on the Jaguars. The Jaguars lost by six at Evansville and by 14 at once-beaten Missouri. IUPUI won 72-66 at Bradley on Dec. 4, and though the Braves have struggled, it provides a cautionary tale for the Sycamores that the Jaguars can bite if they’re under-estimated.

“We have to be us. We have to have a a defensive and offensive identity and we’re forgetting that at times. For us, it always boils down to being tougher and being hard to play against. We haven’t done that. IUPUI does a lot of different things we need to be ready for, but it boils down to us getting better,” Lansing said.

Odum said ISU can’t just get by with a close win. It needs to make a statement.

“We need this game. We need to play our best. We can’t just come out and barely win. We have to play our best,” he said.

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