CEDAR FALLS, Iowa —
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team and coach Greg Lansing finally figured it out.
Don’t get even(-keeled). Get mad.
That’s what Lansing did at halftime Saturday after the Sycamores trailed by 11. To that point, ISU had played with the kind of complacency, especially on the defensive end, that caused it to lose at Southern Illinois on Wednesday and to eke close wins over the Missouri Valley Conference’s lesser lights in other games.
But enough was enough. At long last, the Sycamores reached down and fought back with a vengeance.
Lansing ranted and raved, and the Sycamores responded and saved themselves from what could have been a season-altering losing streak. ISU surged past UNI and notched an important 87-81 victory that went a long way toward restoring the Sycamores’ pride.
The fire lit under the Sycamores was hot, but it was needed for a group that sometimes too easily gets satisfied and lets complacency and lack of urgency set in as a result.
“I lost it at halftime. I lost it on the guys. I tried to challenge that starting group. That group has defended well. It hasn’t started halves very hard. I told them, ‘It’s time,’” Lansing said. “I was tired of seeing it. I think the way they came out in the second half showed they were tired of playing that way.”
How did the targets of Lansing’s ire take the message? They welcomed it.
“Coach Lansing was the catalyst,” said ISU swingman Khristian Smith, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds. “He got after us and the message was perfect. He told us we could get after it or let another game go. We let one go on Wednesday. We couldn’t make it back-to-back games. He was pretty fired up to say the least, but he was right. We had to be the tougher team.”
Jake Odum scored 15 of his 17 points and attacked the basket with far more gusto in the second half. Was it time for the team to be read the riot act?
“We needed a little chewing out,” Odum said. “We knew we needed a spark. It needs to come from the players most of the time, but he (Lansing) stepped up and gave it to us. He helped us win this game.”
ISU shot 54.5 percent in a second half, when it outscored UNI 53-36. The Sycamores got to the line 28 times. Three Sycamores scored in double digits in the second half. In addition to Odum’s 17 second-half points, Smith had 13 and co-leading scorer Dawon Cummings had 11.
But per usual with Lansing, his critique started with defense. Lansing likened the Sycamores to a golf cart governor and it wasn’t a flattering comparison.
“I’d had enough of seeing them not play hard. They’re good basketball players, they’re better offensively than defensively, but they can be a good defensive team. They have to sell out at the defensive end and play with maximum effort,” Lansing said.
“I told them to take the governor off. Like you would have on a golf cart. That group has the governor on the defensive end too much, but they did a good job in the second half,” he added.
Lansing has always lauded his hard-working group of players. They’ve taken the Sycamores far this season. ISU has won 15 of 18 games and has its best record at this point in the season since 1979.
Yet something felt missing in recent games. As the MVC schedule has played out, ISU has become less active on the offensive end. It’s defense improved, but took a step backward in the second half at SIU and the first half against UNI on Saturday.
Fans fear a repeat of last season’s February collapse in which ISU lost seven of its last nine games. While ISU has not lost two in a row at any point this season, nerves were rattled, and the danger was certainly there with the road game at UNI followed by Wednesday’s home game against Wichita State.
ISU does not have a vocal leader on its team. Without one, it’s difficult for players to create their own accountability. Because of that, the team can be prone to complacency, especially if they feel things are going well for them.
Lansing was asked after Saturday’s game if the Sycamores had to have complacency shaken out of them at times and if that pattern has been proven over time.
“Yeah probably. I like them, they’re a hard-working group. I haven’t been hard and killing them, but sometimes you have to rattle the cage a little bit,” said Lansing, who also said being calmer toward his team has “probably hurt our toughness at times.”
Odum was asked if it was disappointing that a fire had to be lit beneath the team instead of it being ignited by one of the players.
“There’s no question. It has to come from us, the senior leaders. When we’re not playing well, it’s hard to step up and say something because guys don’t want to listen when you’re not playing your best,” Odum said.
ISU has a chance to build on its second half effort as unbeaten Wichita State visits on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. at Hulman Center.
INDIANA STATE (87) — Arop 3-5 2-2 11, Gant 5-9 3-4 14, Cummings 6-14 2-4 18, Odum 3-9 11-14 17, Smith 5-10 7-8 18, Kitchell 1-2 1-2 3, Eitel 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 1-1 0-1 2, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 0-1 4-4 4. 24-52 FG, 30-39 FT, 87 TP.
NORTHERN IOWA (81) — Mitchell 8-14 3-4 21, Rank 1-5 0-0 2, Bohannon 1-7 3-3 6, Tuttle 6-11 2-2 15, Washpun 5-9 8-12 18, Friedman 0-0 0-0 0, Singleton 3-3 1-2 7, Morgan 2-5 0-0 6, Morrison 0-1 0-0 0, Martino 2-2 0-0 6. 28-57 FG, 17-23 FT, 81 TP.
Halftime — ISU 49-33. 3-point shooting — ISU 9-23 (Cummings 4-8, Arop 3-4, Smith 1-4, Gant 1-2, Odum 0-3, Eitel 0-1, Burnett 0-1), UNI 8-23 (Mitchell 2-6, Martino 2-2, Morgan 2-2, Bohannon 1-7, Tuttle 1-1, Rank 0-3, Washpun 0-1, Morrison 0-1). Rebounds — ISU 36 (Smith 13, Burnett 5, Team 5, Cummings 4, Arop 3, Odum 3, Gant, Kitchell, Brown), UNI 32 (Tuttle 10, Morgan 5, Bohannon 4, Rank 3, Mitchell 2, Singleton 2, Team 2, Martino). Assists — ISU 10 (Odum 5, Arop 2, Cummings, Eitel, Brown), UNI 13 (Washpun 6, Tuttle 3, Mitchell 2, Singleton, Morrison). Steals — ISU 9 (Arop 3, Brown 3, Cummings, Smith, Eitel), UNI 5 (Tuttle 2, Mitchell, Bohannon). Blocks — ISU 2 (Gant, Cummings), UNI 4 (Tuttle 2, Washpun, Morgan). Turnovers — ISU 9 (Arop 2, Cummings 2, Odum 2, Smith, Brown, Burnett), UNI 11 (Mitchell 2, Tuttle 2, Washpun 2, Rank, Friedman, Singleton, Morgan, Martino). Total fouls — ISU 19, UNI 22. Fouled out — Morgan. A — 5,127.
Next — ISU (17-5, 8-2) plays host to Wichita State and UNI (11-11, 5-5) plays at Illinois State on Wednesday.
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa —
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team and coach Greg Lansing finally figured it out.
- Indiana State University
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- Ramblin’ On: Sycamores use defensive stops to reach Missouri Valley semifinals