TERRE HAUTE —
If you really wanted to hunt for it, there were things one could pick at about Indiana State’s performance in its Sunday exhibition game against Rose-Hulman at Hulman Center.
Maybe the free throws didn’t fall as much (70 percent, but in the 60s for most of the contest) as one would like. Perhaps the energy from the second unit didn’t match that of the starters in the first half. ISU coach Greg Lansing cited one qualm of his own when he said after the game that he thought the team took too many quick shots based on what they were trying to run.
But let’s face it … these are quibbles that divert one’s attention from bottom line. That being that the Sycamores looked strong in a 73-37 victory over the crosstown Engineers, who are two-time Division III NCAA Tournament participants.
“It’s a good way to start,” Lansing said. “They’re well-coached and well-prepared, and they’ll do things to us we don’t do to ourselves. They have really good motion, they have good cutting, and they’re patient. It gets us ready for some teams we have to play.”
ISU swingman Khristian Smith led all scorers with 18 points, 16 scored in a second half performance where the sophomore shot 5 of 5 from the field.
Manny Arop, Jake Odum and Devonte Brown just missed the double-digit point barrier with nine points each. Michael Hallstein led the Engineers with 11 points.
ISU’s strength was in its defense. Rose-Hulman could not get its shooters on-song, as the Engineers shot 25 percent from the field. Rose-Hulman, a team that has overwhelmed its Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foes with three-point shooting at times, made only four on Sunday.
Given the emphasis placed on hand checks and defensive contact in general, the most encouraging aspect of ISU’s defense was its ability to jump out on Rose-Hulman shooters while maintaining the new hands-free way of the college basketball world.
“We’re working on it. In the first half, I thought we were pretty good, but [Rose-Hulman] isn’t a team that’s going to drive a ton, other than [Julian] Strickland,” Lansing said.
ISU frustrated Strickland, who was 4 of 16 from the field. He scored nine points.
“They denied a lot, especially in the second half. It made it very hard for us to get entries. Having the ball two feet off the 3-point line makes it hard for us to get into our offense,” Strickland said.
Offensively, the Sycamores shared the ball well — ISU had 13-to-7 assist-to-turnover numbers — and shot 36.8 percent from 3-point range. Five ISU players made three-pointers. ISU also outrebounded Rose-Hulman 47-35 without the services of forward Justin Gant.
As expected, the junior missed the contest with a sprained right ankle, and he was in a boot on the sideline. It was feared Gant might have a muscle tear in his ankle, but Lansing said the MRI came back clean. Lansing said Gant should return to practice this week and should be available for Saturday’s opener against Ball State.
Odum, who missed last week’s closed scrimmage against Murray State, played 23 minutes and likely would’ve played more had it been a regular season contest.
As for Rose-Hulman, there were also encouraging signs. Coach Jim Shaw is trying to work in a new rotation to replace the four main cogs that left last year’s 24-4 team. He saw some things he liked.
“I thought our execution was really good. We got good opportunities. The challenge is in finishing those opportunities,” Shaw said. “We have pretty good perimeter guys and wings, but finding some answers inside is a question, and a backup point guard is a question.
“We went a long way towards answering those questions. [Post player] Matt Loesing was really good. I thought [point guard] Wade Stallings was really good,” Shaw added.
The game tilted in ISU’s favor quickly. The Sycamores began the game with a 9-0 run — Dawon Cummings scored the first five points — and the lead ballooned to 24-11 by the 8:21 mark of the first half.
It was at that point that ISU’s reserves entered the fray, and not coincidentally, it was when the Engineers had the most success. Rose-Hulman closed the gap to six at one point and settled for a respectable 30-21 halftime deficit.
Hope for the Engineers was quickly crushed under the foot of Smith.
Playing against Indianapolis Pike teammate Strickland, he scored eight points in succession for the Sycamores just after the break, and it helped jump start a 21-3 run that put the game out of Rose-Hulman’s reach. Smith scored 14 points during the rally and scored his final points of the game on a rim-rattling, one-handed throwdown.
“I just tried to stay aggressive. The shots fell, I attacked the basket and I brought some energy,” Smith said.
ISU opens its regular season Saturday at home against Ball State. Rose-Hulman begins its campaign on Nov. 22 when it travels to St. Louis to play Washington University.
ROSE-HULMAN (37) — Miller 2-6 1-2 5, Hallstein 4-9 0-0 11, Pillischafske 1-5 0-0 2, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Strickland 4-16 0-0 9, Dodd 1-2 1-2 3, Stallings 0-4 1-5 1, Reynolds 0-1 2-3 2, Povaleri 0-0 0-0 0, McHugh 0-1 0-0 0, Duffy 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Wojcik 0-1 0-0 0, McDonough 0-3 0-2 0, Loesing 2-7 0-0 4. 14-56 FG, 5-14 FT, 37 TP.
INDIANA STATE (67) — Arop 4-6 0-1 9, Kitchell 2-2 2-2 6, Cummings 3-7 0-0 8, Odum 3-4 2-2 9, Smith 6-8 4-4 18, Etherington 1-2 0-0 2, Eitel 0-2 0-0 0, Scott 1-4 2-2 4, Brown 3-10 2-3 9, Moore 1-3 0-0 2, Burnett 2-6 0-1 4, Bell 0-3 2-5 2. 26-57 FG, 14-20 FT, 67 TP.
Halftime score — ISU 30-21. 3-point goals — RHIT 4-14 (Hallstein 3-6, Strickland 1-4, Miller 0-1, Pillischafke 0-1, McHugh 0-1, Wojcik 0-1), ISU 7-19 (Cummings 2-4, Smith 2-3, Brown 1-3, Arop 1-2, Odum 1-1, Burnett 0-2, Etherington 0-1, Eitel 0-1, Scott 0-1, Moore 0-1). Rebounds — RHIT 35* (Strickland 7, Loesing 7, Hallstein 5, Stallings 4, McDonough 4, Pillischafske 2, Dodd 2, Team 2, Miller, Povaleri), ISU 47* (Arop 8, Odum 7, Brown 7, Kitchell 4, Burnett 4, Bell 4, Cummings 3, Smith 2, Scott 2, Moore 2, Team 2, Etherington, Eitel). Assists — RHIT 8 (Miller 2, Martin 2, Hallstein, Strickland, Stallings, Povaleri), ISU 13 (Odum 5, Cummings 2, Brown 2, Burnett 2, Arop, Kitchell). Steals — RHIT 3 (Stallings 2, Martin), ISU 7 (Smith 3, Cummings 2, Brown, Bell). Blocks — RHIT 2 (Strickland, Povaleri), ISU 6 (Kitchell 2, Cummings, Odum, Smith, Bell). Turnovers — RHIT 11 (Strickland 2, Dodd 2, Miller, Hallstein, Pillischafske, Martin, Stallings, Povaleri, Loesing), ISU 7 (Arop 2, Kitchell, Etherington, Scott, Brown, Moore). Total fouls — RHIT 20, ISU 13. A — 3,716.
Next — ISU plays host to Ball State on Saturday. Rose-Hulman plays at Washington University on Nov. 22.