TERRE HAUTE —
Basketball for breakfast is on tap at Hulman Center on Saturday.
Indiana State and Iona have a rare 11 a.m. tipoff in their ESPN BracketBusters game today. It’s a case where both teams hope the sun rises on a new day as far as their fortunes are concerned.
ISU (16-11) has lost three in a row and has seen its NCAA Tournament at-large hopes diminish. Two of ISU’s three losses in that span were by four points or less.
ISU’s losses have been frustrating enough, but the Gaels might have them beat.
Iona (15-12) has lost five of its last six, but all of the five were by the margin of a single possession. Two were double overtime losses.
The Sycamores’ recent frustration can be tied primarily to turnovers. ISU has averaged 18.5 in its last two games. Iona’s opponents average 14.2 giveaways per contest.
“We’re playing hard, but there are little things in our game plan we’re not focusing on as much as we should be. That’s why we’re losing close games,” ISU center Justin Gant said.
Gant isn’t overly concerned about his drop in scoring in the second half of the MVC season. Gant’s scoring average in February has dipped to 5.3 points per game in February and he’s reached double-figure scoring just once in the last 10 contests.
“I want to try and stay aggressive. I want to keep good movement within the offense with cuts and screens, things like that. I’m not always going to get the shot, but my screen can get a teammate open. I’m not worried about my scoring as long as I stay aggressive,” Gant said.
Iona is currently tied for fifth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Gaels are led by Lamont “Momo” Jones, who averages 22.9 points per game, the fifth-best total in the nation.
Iona – located in New Rochelle, N.Y., which is just north of New York City – has converted 38.2 percent of its 3-point shots. Sean Armand, Iona’s second-leading scorer at 17.7, has made 43.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“Armand has a big-time stroke with NBA range. He needs no room and he can get his own off a step-back. You can’t give him any room at all and he’s strong enough to get the basket,” Lansing said.
“Momo is just good. He can score off the bounce and uses how the defense plays him well. He’s unbelievable off ball screens, he eats up space and he gets into his defenders and gets to the line,” Lansing added.
Iona’s up-tempo style is not one that ISU is accustomed to playing against.
“That’s the hard thing about it. Not only do they have a really good team with outstanding players, they play a different way than basically every team in our league. It’s a lot of things to prepare for,” Lansing said. “The play zones, they switch a lot on defense and they score in a variety of ways. It’s tough to prepare for them.”
The game will be broadcast on ESPNU. It’s the first time in the history of the BracketBusters series that ISU is playing in an ESPN-televised game. It’ll be the last time as this is the final year of the event in its current form.