TERRE HAUTE —
Chemistry class was in session at Hulman Center on Thursday.
Indiana State’s men’s basketball exhibition game against Lewis was as much about the team getting to know each other’s tendencies as it was about beating the Flyers.
The Sycamores defeated the Division II Flyers 79-66 and learned some things about themselves in the process.
“It was kind of hard to know what we were going to have going in. We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of guys who can make plays, but until you go into a live situation with your teammates, you really don’t know what you have,” ISU forward R.J. Mahurin said.
In a nutshell, the Sycamores proved they could score, especially off of turnovers (16 points). What they also proved is that they need some work on the defensive end.
Team chemistry isn’t derived after just one experiment. ISU coach Greg Lansing put the onus on ISU’s veterans to get the experiment pointed in the right direction.
“They’re all trying. They’re trying to say the right things and to do the right things, but we need the guys who have been through it before to be the voices more often than not,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
Mahurin was ISU’s leading scorer with 21 points. Mahurin scored seven consecutive ISU points in a late first-half run that turned an ISU deficit into a 23-22 lead with six minutes left in the half. The Sycamores would not trail the rest of the way.
Dawon Cummings added 12 points and Khristian Smith had 10. Justin Gant had eight points and eight rebounds and displayed vigor in the paint.
After ISU closed the first half on a 14-4 run to take a 37-26 halftime lead, the Flyers never seriously threatened. On the other hand, Lewis was never completely put away either. ISU’s lead peaked at 21 with 12:27 left in the game, but late in the game — when ISU turned to its least experienced crew and the Flyers pressed — Lewis cut its deficit to nine.
With 1:26 left, Lansing had to put the starters back in to assure that the Sycamores would finish the Flyers off.
“Lewis exposed a lot of things. We can be a good team, but they have to understand we have a long ways to go in maturity. Coach [Royce] Waltman used to say, ‘You have to listen and take it all out on the floor.’ As a coaching staff, we have to repeat things too much,” Lansing said.
The Flyers shot 48.3 percent in the second half after they converted 40.7 percent in the first half.
“It’s Jake Odum on down the line. It’s good that Lewis made a run late, because maybe it will perk guys up a little bit and listen to things we’re saying. They’re working hard, we just have a long ways to go,” Lansing added.
ISU’s defense was the target of most needed improvement. ISU showed flashes of solid half-court defense, especially in the first eight minutes of the game. The Sycamores were also opportunistic; ISU had 14 steals.
But the gambling mentality that created those steals got ISU burned at times too. And when ISU was in its half-court, there were possessions when the defensive intensity dropped as the 35-second clock wound down.
“We have to get better chemistry-wise defensively. We have to get on that same level and trust one another. We have to get where that’s easy for us,” Mahurin said.
Lansing was asked what specific defensive improvement he wanted to see.
“We have to work on ball-screen defense. We get driven far too easy. It’s a hard thing. We ask them to get into the ball, but then when the guy is getting ready to penetrate, you have to give ground and keep the ball in front of you. We also bailed them out with too many fouls,” Lansing said.
While defensive improvement was the post-game theme among both Sycamores’ coaches and players, ISU also showed it has some talent to build on. When the Sycamores achieved that elusive chemistry, there were some plays made — especially on the offensive end — that were encouraging.
“Everybody can score. Khristian Smith. Manny [Arop]. Gant. We have a lot of weapons out there,” Odum said.
ISU has eight days to prepare for its season opener at UCLA next Friday.