College basketball games are rarely decided during shootaround, but when Indiana State’s men’s team came out lackadaisical in its pregame routine, coach Greg Lansing saw the warning signs.
He ended the session early in an effort to get the team focused. Once the Sycamores faced IUPUI in the real thing, it seemed that Lansing’s decision had the desired effect.
ISU led IUPUI from start to finish in its 75-61 victory as the Sycamores snapped a two-game losing streak.
Jake Odum and Manny Arop co-led ISU with 18 points. Arop had nine rebounds and Odum had eight. Dawon Cummings had seven assists.
ISU (5-3) was pleased with its 40-minute effort, but the wakeup call came before the clock even began ticking.
“We usually practice on the day of the game. Going to Hawaii? Not wanting to get banged up? We didn’t go after each other as much. We got out a little quicker and I was upset about it, but they responded. I knew we’d play hard tonight,” Lansing said.
The players thought the shootaround jolt was needed.
“It was something like that,” said Cummings, when asked if the team was kicked out of shootaround. “I don’t want to say we weren’t focused, but we weren’t locked in and coach got a little disappointed.”
“We might have come into shootaround lacking concentration. Coach Lansing realized that and snapped us back into shape. Credit to him. That’s being a great coach. He knows how to run our team and if we follow in his steps, we’ll be good to go,” Odum said.
ISU shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded IUPUI 40-25. ISU’s only blemish was 18 turnovers.
Lansing and the Sycamores said in the pregame run-up they wanted to get the ball inside more and they were true to their word early in the contest. In a 13-0 run that put ISU up 15-5, all but three of the points were scored inside the arc. Meanwhile, ISU’s defense forced IUPUI into low-percentage shots and turnovers. The Jaguars would start the game 4 of 16 from the field.
Then … it all disappeared for ISU. The Sycamores began to get careless on offense and force the tempo, which gave IUPUI a lifeline. ISU’s lead peaked at 19-7, but a 15-4 run pulled the Jaguars within shouting range at 23-22 with 5:48 left in the first half.
ISU recovered a bit before halftime, rebuilding its lead to eight in the final minute. Arop had seven of his 11 first-half points in the final 5:28.
After the hit-and-miss first half, ISU got all of its cylinders running in the second half as it started with a 13-6 run. The Sycamores did a far better job swinging the ball around to create higher-percentage scoring chances.
“We knew that they’d come out strong in the second half, but we wanted to come out stronger. We had a sense of urgency and we were flying around. We did a good job to rebuild momentum,” Arop said.
Arop’s productivity served the Sycamores well. The junior scored seven of ISU’s points during the run. The only blemish was a technical foul called on him when he was charged with hanging on the rim on an alley-oop dunk.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches. They’ve worked with me to understand the system and get me more comfortable,” Arop said.
IUPUI (4-9) made a run at ISU in the second half, but ISU’s defense was better and the Jaguars couldn’t chip into the Sycamores’ lead to the degree they did in the first half. IUPUI cut its deficit to 59-52, but the Sycamores responded by holding the Jaguars scoreless for five minutes. ISU’s lead ballooned to 70-52 and the Sycamores cruised from there.
“Everyone who came off the bench gave us something tonight. We played 10-deep, which is good, because we’re going to need it in Hawaii,” Lansing said.
After playing a game-a-week since late November, ISU will run a gauntlet of six games in the next two weeks. ISU will play three in Hawaii from Dec. 22-25. Once it returns to the mainland, it will begin Missouri Valley Conference play at home against Illinois State, followed by road games at Northern Iowa and Creighton.