The Muncie misery is over. Indiana State’s men’s basketball was worthy at Worthen Arena at long last.
For the first time since Ronald Reagan was President — and since Ronald Greene was ISU’s head coach — the Sycamores defeated Ball State in its backyard. ISU had a happy bus ride home from Ball State for the first time since 1986 as it dominated the host Cardinals 68-48 on Tuesday.
The Sycamores (3-1) won their first game in 10 trips to Worthen Arena with a stifling defensive clampdown and a sublime performance by point guard Jake Odum.
Ball State (2-1) shot 32 percent from the field and had 14 turnovers. Ball State’s Jauwan Scaife and Majok Majok scored 31 of Ball State’s 48 points.
“Lou [Gudino, associate head coach] had the scout and he had them ready for everything they were going to do. These guys listened. We tried to take away the opponents strengths as much as possible, but we have to be aggressive. We have to be aggressive, we have to fly around and we did that tonight,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
On the other end, Odum had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Odum was aggressive as he took 13 shots, and on the occasions where Ball State was able to get a foothold, Odum was at his best. He had the knack for the timely answer off a drive or with an assist to a teammate.
While Odum wasn’t born the last time ISU won at Ball State, he has grim memories of ISU’s last trip to Worthen Arena. ISU had 26 turnovers in a 75-60 loss in 2010.
“When I here two years ago, we got whooped. It was embarrassing. Coming out tonight, I wore that on my sleeve. I wanted to represent Indiana State in a better way tonight,” Odum said.
Manny Arop had his first career double-double for ISU with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
R.J. Mahurin, whom ISU coaches feared would not play to due what they thought was a hyperextended knee, had 13 points. Mahurin was cleared by ISU’s doctors in the hours before Tuesday’s game.
ISU’s defense was impressive from tipoff. Ball State had no answer for ISU’s aggressiveness on ball-handlers and its ability to jump into passing lanes. Help defense was on time in the paint against Ball State big men Majok Majok and Zach Fields.
The result was a 1-of-8 start from the field and five Ball State turnovers by the 13-minute mark. ISU led 12-3 with a balanced attack that took advantage of Ball State’s late defending.
“We’re trying to find out roles defensively. We’re all buying in. Everybody guarded today. We wanted that first road victory and we came out and played hard,” said ISU guard Dawon Cummings, who guarded Ball State’s Jesse Berry and got Berry into early foul trouble.
ISU’s lead got to 22-11 before the Cardinals began to take advantage of second chances and foul trouble by ISU’s big men. But that’s also when Odum’s assertiveness on the offensive end was most valuable.
Ball State cut its deficit to seven, but Odum drew a foul to get two at the line and then converted a three-point play to restore ISU’s 11-point advantage. When Mahurin hit a pair of free throws with 5:08 left in the half, ISU’s lead peaked at 13.
Odum had 14 points at halftime.
“We saw on film how they guard pick-and-rolls. I just felt like I could set things up for myself and my team and that’s what we did. They were slacking off a bit on the ball screens. They were quite as high on the 3-point line,” Odum said.
The half ended appropriately. Ball State worked the shot clock down, but Scaife, who scored 12 of Ball State’s 24 first-half points, was forced to take an off-balance three at the death of the shot clock. ISU led 35-24 at the end of an impressive first half.
ISU started the second half slowly, with six empty possessions, but Ball State couldn’t take advantage. Sensing that it could take advantage of ISU’s lack of size in the paint, the Cardinals tried to get as many paint touches as possible and cut ISU’s lead to 10 with 9:16 left.
Even when the Cardinals’ plan to pound the paint worked, Ball State undermined itself with bad free throw shooting. The Cardinals made just 15 of 27 at the line — 47 percent in the second half — and missed the front end of three one-and-one opportunities.
ISU’s defense never let up and no one play better symbolized ISU’s ability to thwart Ball State than when Lucas Eitel and Cummings forced a shot clock violation with 6:35 left. ISU’s bench erupted, the most tangible example of the pride ISU took in its defense all night.
“Anytime you get a shot clock violation is tough. We pride ourselves on defense and that play put a statement on the game,” Cummings said.
ISU would pull away in the final eight minutes, closing the game on a 17-6 run.
ISU next plays host to High Point on Sunday. The Panthers play in the Big South Conference.
For video of the press conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rr27BCIAaU&feature=g-crec-u
Editor’s note: Photos were not delivered to the Tribune-Star by deadline.