News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana State University

February 6, 2014

Wichita State defense raised its game in second half against Sycamores

TERRE HAUTE — There were so many defensive possessions in Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State that could have turned the game in the Sycamores’ favor. So many that will stick in the memory as what-ifs.

There was a shot-clock violation forced on Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet with 2:46 left with ISU down three. Justin Gant and Manny Arop trapped the usually unflappable sophomore into a rare team turnover.

There was a blocked shot by Dawon Cummings on a 3-point attempt by Cleanthony Early with 2:08 left. There was a WSU possession with 1:29 left that ended in a wild shot by Darius Carter thrown on top of the backboard.

ISU’s defense in the final five minutes of the game was as its good as its been all season.

Any one of those plays might have been the turning point in a contest against any other Missouri Valley Conference opponent.

“We thought we were going to win the game the whole time. We didn’t feel like they were in control of the game,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.

But, of course, Wichita State is no ordinary opponent. And as excellent as ISU’s defense was down the stretch, the Shockers’ defense for the entirety of the second half might have been better.

“We did everything we could on the defensive end. We didn’t give them second shots. We just didn’t put the ball in the basket,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

ISU shot just 20 percent and scored only 23 points in the second half. ISU didn’t convert a field goal at all in the final five minutes, a drought that proved a mortal blow to ISU’s hopes.

For WSU coach Gregg Marshall, it was a return to form for the Shockers, who allowed ISU to shoot 46.2 percent in the first half.

“I thought Chadrack Lufile did a good job on his hedging. He was working that high ball screen with Gant and trying to turn the corner. We were able to keep him in front. When he can’t get in that paint, it helps us guarding Jake Odum as a team,” Marshall said.

Several of ISU’s shots rimmed out — bad luck to be sure — but WSU’s defense also stepped when needed — no more so than with 1:15 left on the possession that turned the game permanently in the Shockers’ favor.

Down 58-56 with the ball, ISU got what it wanted offensively. Odum dribbed to the right of the basket, drew three Wichita State defenders, and flipped it to Gant at the top of the key. Gant shot-faked Lufile and drove toward the basket.

But Early, one of the three defenders who had helped on Odum, rotated to the paint from the corner and got in Gant’s way as he took away the right side of the paint on Gant’s drive. Gant was forced to turn his body and his attempt hit the bottom of the rim as he lost his footing.

Early rebounded, and drove the lane against a still-recovering ISU defense. His three-point play put WSU up five and the Shockers never looked back.

“The difference between us and them is they have a guy who can block a shot a little better than we can. It was tough around the basket. It was tough and a challenge around the basket,” Lansing said.

Indeed. WSU blocked seven shots, the most an ISU opponent has had since Saint Louis swatted eight shots on Dec. 18, 2013.

It all added up to frustration for the Sycamores. ISU (17-6, 8-3) is still in command of second place in the MVC and a soild February can still put the Sycamores in a good position at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and — possibly — for the NCAA Tournament.

“I feel terrible, but we came in here confident and we had our home crowd behind us. It was the perfect setting. It’s frustrating and we can be mad about it, but we have to move on from it,” ISU swingman Manny Arop said.

ISU next hosts Drake at 3 p.m. Sunday.

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