ST. LOUIS —
21-51, 11-36, 9-29, 11-31
Those numbers were enigmatically etched on the greaseboard inside Indiana State’s locker room after its 51-50 victory over Evansville on Friday.
No, someone’s credit card number hasn’t just been revealed to the world. Nor do the numbers represent some sort of secret code.
Those are Colt Ryan’s career shooting numbers against Indiana State. The prolific Aces’ scorer was 52 of 147 (35.4 percent) from the field in his career against the Sycamores.
After Ryan converted 11 of 19 and scored 31 in an 84-68 Evansville victory on March 2, Ryan was at 17 of 33 for the season against the Sycamores. ISU made it a priority to get back to what it’s done for the majority of Ryan’s career — keep the hot-shooting senior in control.
The Sycamores did more. They completely wiped Ryan out.
Ryan scored eight points — the first time in 20 games the 20-point-per-game scorer failed to reach double-figures.
Ryan also failed to shoot a free throw, breaking a 24-game streak in which he attempted at least one.
Most important, ISU held Ryan scoreless in the second half and the Batesville native was 0-for-9 from the field after the break.
Everyone inside Scottrade Center was waiting for Ryan to get untracked and get a roll late in the game. It never happened. ISU could put its “21-51 [21 of 51 this season]” on its greaseboard with a sense of pride.
“To be able to hold Colt Ryan scoreless in the second half is outstanding,” said ISU point guard Jake Odum, whose eyes lit up when he was told Ryan was held scoreless for a half. “He’s one of the best players in the league and even in the country.”
The Purple Aces were shocked that Ryan was so completely taken out of the game. Evansville coach Marty Simmons thought Evansville was a little too quick to shoot in general.
“We shot the ball. I mean, it’s a lot different than the game at Evansville, where we had 26 assists versus that. I think you’ve got to give Indiana State a lot of credit, but I think our basketball team got a little frustrated with that, and our decision making wasn’t as good as it needed to be,” Simmons said.
ISU sent nearly everyone at Ryan at various stages of the game. Devonte Brown and Manny Arop had the initial one-on-one assignment, but it was a team effort.
“It’s Devonte a lot. It’s Manny. It’s Jake [Odum]. It’s Khristian [Smith]. Lucas [Eitel] maybe a little bit in there and Justin Gant a bit when we switched,” said ISU coach Greg Lansing, explaining ISU’s defense on Ryan.
“To do what we did in the second half is tremendous. It’s as good a defense as we’ve ever played. It’s unbelievable for him to not get to the line. You just commend the guys on how hard they worked,” Lansing said.
Ryan couldn’t argue that point after the game.
“I think they did a good job on me, just sending extra defenders, even on tight cuts and stuff. I missed some shots that I would normally make and I should have made. They did a good job at sending extra attention,” Ryan said.
The defense on Ryan was probably the biggest reason the Sycamores are alive in the MVC Tournament. Not only did ISU recover some of its mojo by ending a five-game MVC losing streak with the hard-fought victory, the Sycamores also proved something else. They proved they can still conjure an extraordinary effort when they’re at their best.
This isn’t the first time ISU has shut down an elite scorer. Miami’s Shane Larkin — a 40.6 3-point shooter who averages 13.8 points per game — scored just four points and was 0-for-5 from 3-point range in ISU’s Christmas Day 57-55 victory over the Hurricanes. On Feb. 6 at Hulman Center, ISU held Creighton’s Doug McDermott (23.3 ppg) to eight points in a 76-57 win.
ISU had to prove on Friday that it could back to winning ways. They did so. They also proved they’re still capable of doing the extraordinary. They’ll need to conjure more of that magic to keep their Arch Madness dream alive.
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.