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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
- Indiana State University
Metro Sports: ISU baseball’s winning streak halted at 12
The UNC-Wilmington Seahawks scored on a walk-off single in the ninth inning to end Indiana State’s 12-game winning streak in baseball with a 3-2 victory Friday at Brooks Field.
ISU trio reach NCAA track finals
Indiana State’s Greggmar Swift and Katie Wise both advanced to today’s finals in their respective events on the first day of the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships hosted by the University of New Mexico.
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Marina Laramie led the Sycamores with nine of her 15 points in the second half. The sophomore from nearby O’Fallon, Mo., had six of those points during a 9-2 ISU run after halftime.
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The toughness — both mental and physical — of Marina Laramie and Racheal Mahan — is a big reason the Indiana State women’s basketball team won five games in a row to close the regular season.
The resolve of the Sycamore post duo was put to the test Friday in the MVC Tournament quarterfinals, and Laramie and Mahan were up to the task.
ISU men await postseason fate
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team returned to practice on Friday without a team or a tournament to prepare for.
ISU women have sights set on MVC tournament title
With a win today in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals, Indiana State will secure its fourth 20-win season in women’s basketball since 1981-82.
Getting to that point has been like competing in one of those urban adventure races with obstacles, mud pits and scavenger hunts. In other words, it hasn’t been permeated with style and grace. But the Sycamores stuck with it and got the job done.
At least so far.
Abdul-Qaadir named league’s top newcomer
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The transfer from Memphis was eligible right away because she had finished her bachelor’s degree upon arrival in Terre Haute.
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Sophomore sprinter Katie Wise is ranked 13th going into the meet in the 60-meter dash and has her sights on an All-American finish.
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Ryan Keaffaber recorded his sixth save in seven opportunities Monday as Indiana State won its 12th straight college baseball game, holding off a rally by visiting Western Illinois for a 7-4 victory on Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium.
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Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir of Indiana State has been named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week for women’s basketball, the league announced Monday.
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No one on Indiana State’s men’s basketball needed to say a word about the Sycamores’ 83-69 loss to Wichita State in Sunday’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game.
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It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
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It could have been just a mop-up role for Josh Dove on Sunday at Bob Warn Field, but the Indiana State relief pitcher wasn’t thinking that way.
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When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
Clock problems delay start of Indiana State semifinal game
Time stood still in Scottrade Center on Saturday.
Not by design.
Sycamores advance to Arch Madness title game
No one said advancing to the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament championship game was going to be easy.
ISU women grab share of MVC regular-season title
The preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite lived up to its expectations, as the Indiana State women’s basketball team grabbed a piece of the regular-season title with an 85-72 triumph over host Northern Iowa on Saturday afternoon inside McLeod Center.
ISU headed to MVC title game
Indiana State defeated Southern Illinois 62-59 on Saturday to advance to Arch Madness championship game.
Ramblin’ On: Sycamores use defensive stops to reach Missouri Valley semifinals
It sounds counter-intuitive, but to go forward in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament you must first get stops. In Friday’s MVC Tournament quarterfinal against Loyola, ISU followed that bit of zen to a tee. The Sycamores never let the Ramblers get comfortable offensively and put a hammer-lock on Loyola standout Milton Doyle. ISU rode its defense to an easy 75-62 victory at Scottrade Center.
ISU baseball looking to carry success home
Indiana State had pitching questions coming into the season, having lost its entire starting staff from a year ago.
So far anyway, those questions have been answered. The Sycamores are 9-1 going into their home opener today against Western Illinois.
Metro sports: Rose-Hulman picks up baseball win
A late run in the eighth-inning broke a 4-all tie and proved to be the game winner for Rockford College in a 5-4 decision over the Rose-Hulman baseball team Friday at the Chain of Lakes Complex.
Sycamores rejuvenated heading into MVC Tournament quarterfinals
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is sick-and-tired of being sick and tired.
He’s tired of hearing about the team’s three-game losing streak. He’s tired of the Sycamores playing below par. He’s tired of the team not fulfilling its potential.
He plans to do something about it this weekend. Second-seeded ISU begins its Missouri Valley Conference Tournament trek at 7:05 p.m. tonight against either No. 10 Loyola.
ISU women seek top MVC seed
Defense and rebounding are the staples of Teri Moren’s fourth Indiana State team, a squad that hits the road trying to defend and rebound its way to a regular-season conference title. The Sycamores women’s basketball can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference with wins tonight against Drake and Saturday against Northern Iowa.
ISU reserve Smith earns two MVC honors
Indiana State sophomore Khristian Smith has been named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Bench and Most Improved Teams, according to an announcement by the league office Wednesday.
Two Sycamores with Scott during Saturday incident
A Vigo County’s Sheriff’s case report of Brenton Scott’s arrest last Saturday indicated that Scott, an Indiana State basketball player, tried to pass himself off as his twin brother and that two of his teammates were with him at the time of the incident.
Metro Sports: Sycamores to be represented at NCAA indoors
Three members of the Indiana State track and field team will compete in the 2014 NCAA indoor championships March 14-15 at Albuquerque, N.M. Senior Greggmar Swift will represent the men, while sophomore Katie Wise and senior Mary Theisen will represent the women.
Odum, Smith, Arop recognized by MVC
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum doesn’t play baseball, but he did go 4-for-4 in his Sycamore career.
His 4-for-4 performance came in regards to his All-Missouri Valley Conference selections. Odum has been named to the all-MVC team in each of his four seasons, and for the second time in a year, Odum was named to the MVC’s first team.
Teammate Khristian Smith also received a major individual honor. Smith, a sophomore, earned the MVC’s Sixth Man Award. Senior Manny Arop also was named as an All-MVC honorable-mention selection.
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- Metro Sports: ISU baseball’s winning streak halted at 12