News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana State University

March 18, 2014

A rapid pace: Arkansas style presents challenge for Sycamores

TERRE HAUTE — Jake Odum has started at point guard for four years at Indiana State. He can claim as much as any Sycamore — past or present — that he’s seen it all.

But even Odum hasn’t seen a team attack the game and attack their opponent quite like Arkansas does.

The Razorbacks will bring their self-styled “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” philosophy to the table at 9 p.m. today in a  National Invitation Tournament game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. The Hogs will run and will press for all 40 minutes.

The Sycamores haven’t gone against that style at all this season. Is there anything in their recent past they can use as a template?

“I don’t know that there’s anyone in the country who plays this style or who plays it near as well as they do. They’re going to be really aggressive,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

ISU practiced early Monday afternoon before its charter flight to Fayetteville. The emphasis was on hard cuts to the basket and taking care of the ball. Arkansas will make ISU pay if it’s careless — the Razorbacks rank 10th nationally in steals at 8.6 per game.

“You have to play basketball and read defense. You have to be alert to trapping at all times. If you’re one of the guys they leave to trap, you have to make yourself available, and you cannot turn over the ball,” Lansing said. “I admire how they play. They really play hard and make it tough for 40 minutes. They don’t take possessions off and they take you out of what you want to run.”

ISU (23-10) has two pillars it can rely on as it heads to SEC country for a game that will be broadcast on ESPN.

The first is the fact that ISU has had plenty of practice — and success — on the road. ISU has won nine road games this season.

The second and more important factor is ISU’s experienced backcourt. Besides Odum, ISU has senior Dawon Cummings in a ball-handling role.

“We’re a confident team having two seniors handling the ball, but we haven’t seen 40 minutes of pressure and we’ll have to adjust to that,” Cummings said.

It isn’t just Arkansas’ press defense the Sycamores have to contend with. Arkansas (21-11) averages 80.3 points per game — 16th best in the nation. The Hogs boast freshman forward Bobby Portis (12.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg), junior guard Rashad Madden (12.7 ppg) and sophomore guard Michael Qualls (11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg) among others. Due to the Razorbacks’ style, they substitute frequently and have six players averaging five or more points.

“They’re really aggressive and they have a lot of athleticism,” Odum said. “We should be OK attacking a press for all 40. Dawon and I know where everyone needs to be on the floor.”

ISU has more postseason experience than Arkansas. The Sycamores have played in a postseason tournament every season since 2010 and the Hogs haven’t played a postseason game since 2008. ISU also has an edge in game experience overall.

Arkansas was on track to make the NCAA Tournament until losses to Alabama and South Carolina late in its season. How the Hogs and Sycamores handle the disappointment of falling short of their goals will play a large role in how the game plays out.

The Sycamores are happy to get another chance.

“We’re blessed to get another opportunity to play college basketball. It’s a dream and it’s nice to have one more opportunity,” Odum said.

It is ISU’s fourth appearance in the NIT and the first time its played a SEC school in the tournament. ISU went 0-1 in 1977, 1-1 in 1978 and 0-1 in 2013.

ISU has won its last two games against SEC competition. The Sycamores knocked off Ole Miss in 2012-13 in the Diamond Head Classic and won at Vanderbilt in 2011-12. ISU’s last loss to a SEC team was to LSU in the 2009-10 season.

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