TERRE HAUTE —
Opening day is when the mysteries of the season begin to be revealed. It’s true for every team, but it might go double for Ball State, Indiana State’s men’s basketball opponent today at Hulman Center.
While the Sycamores enter the 1 p.m. game loaded with nine experienced players and a proven track record, the Cardinals are something of a mystery.
Only four players — forwards Chris Bond, Majok Majok and Bo Calhoun along with guard Jesse Berry — return from last season’s game, a 68—48 victory for ISU in Muncie. Forward Matt Kamieniecki was ruled out for the season earlier this week with a wrist injury.
There’s a new coach, James Whitford, who was hired from Sean Miller’s staff at Arizona. Whitford has never been a head coach, so there’s nothing aside from one exhibition game to form a paper trail of his habits.
“It’s hard because we don’t know what they’re going to do. We can watch Arizona game tape all we want, but he’s still going to coach his team to what they have,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said. “We do know they have talented players who can come in here and beat us.”
Ball State played Marian in that exhibition on Monday and rallied for a 62—59 victory after trailing by 15 at halftime. Freshman Zavier Turner — who was recruited by ISU from Pike High School — led the Cardinals with 18 points. Majok had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Four freshmen played in the game for the Cardinals.
This much is known about Ball State. Berry is a scorer who shot 37.5 percent from 3—point range. Majok is athletic and one of the better scoring and rebounding forwards ISU will face. Bond led the Cardinals in steals a year ago. Past that? The Cardinals are unproven, but if there are question marks about the Cardinals, two things are certain.
Ball State likely hasn’t forgotten ISU’s easy victory at Worthen Arena a year ago — ISU shot 45.7 percent and held Ball State to 32—percent shooting — and wants to avoid a repeat performance by ISU.
The other is that Ball State would love nothing more than to put a damper on the day that Larry Bird’s statue is dedicated in front of Hulman Center.
“There’s no doubt in our mind that they’ll be ready to go. They won’t be flat,” ISU guard Jake Odum said. “They have a new coach, they’ve seen film on us and we’re prepared for some new wrinkles. We’re ready for them to bring what they’ve got.”
In the last 30 years of the series, Ball State has traditionally struggled in Terre Haute — just one victory at Hulman Center since 2002 — and ISU couldn’t win in Muncie, but the circle was broken during ISU’s emphatic win a year ago. ISU seeks its first three—game win streak in the series since 1980.
It will attempt to do so with forward Justin Gant likely to be in the lineup. Gant missed Sunday’s 73—37 exhibition victory over Rose—Hulman with a sprained right ankle. Gant got good news from his doctor Monday as no additional tears were found.
“I don’t need surgery and I got a steroid shot to calm the pain down. I can progressively work my way into practice and be good to go on Saturday,” Gant said.
Ball State at ISU
Tipoff — 1 p.m. today at Hulman Center.
Broadcasts — TV: WTWO. Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5.
Series — ISU leads 70-57. ISU won 68-48 at Ball State last season and has its first two-game win streak in the series since 1985.
Indiana State Sycamores (18-15 last season) — G Jake Odum (6-4, Sr., 13.6 in ‘13), G Dawon Cummings (6-4, Sr., 6.4), G-F Manny Arop (6-6, Sr., 12 ppg); F Justin Gant (6-8, Jr., 7.5) and C Jake Kitchell (6-10, Sr., 2.7) are possible starters. G Khristian Smith (6-6, Fr., 7 ppg, 5.1), G Lucas Eitel (6-2, Sr., 4.1), F Demetrius Moore (6-7, Jr.), G Devonte Brown (6-3, Fr., 3.8), G Brandon Burnett (6-6, Fr., 1.7) and F T.J. Bell (6-8, Fr.) are key reserves.
Coach — Greg Lansing (56-44 at ISU, 4th year).
Ball State Cardinals (15-15 last season) — G Zavier Turner (5-9, Fr), G Jesse Berry (6-2, Sr., 12.8), F Chris Bond (6-4, Sr., 8.9), F Majok Majok (6-9, Sr., 10.7, 9.8 rpg) and F Tyler Koch (6-6, Sr., 1.5) are the possible starters. G Mark Alstork (6-4, Fr), G Quinten Payne (6-5, Fr.), F Bo Calhoun (6-5, So., 1.7) and Franko House (6-6, Fr.) are key reserves.
Coach — James Whitford (0-0, 1st year at Ball State).
Injuries and absences — For ISU, C Mike Samuels (foot) is out. F Justin Gant (ankle) is questionable. G Jake Odum (calf) is probable. For Ball State, F Matt Kamieniecki (wrist) is out.
Next games — ISU plays at Belmont on Thursday. Ball State plays host to Taylor on Tuesday.
— Todd Golden