TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team wanted to use its last home game of the season Wednesday as a springboard to success in next week’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
The Sycamores landed flat on their faces instead … on and off the court.
ISU lost 67-56 to eighth-place Drake at Hulman Center. The Sycamores played without starting forward Manny Arop. The junior was suspended due to an unspecified violation of team rules.
ISU coach Greg Lansing said he suspended Arop on Wednesday morning and alerted the team later. Arop did not attend the game. Lansing would not comment on the nature of Arop’s suspension.
“Manny Arop was not here tonight and that was my choice. He violated some team rules and I will handle it internally,” said Lansing, who added that he didn’t want Arop’s presence to be a distraction.
Lansing said that Arop’s suspension was “indefinite.” He would not confirm whether Arop would return for Saturday’s game against Evansville or whether Arop would return this season at all.
“I’ll make that decision in time. I’d say [he’s out] indefinitely,” Lansing said.
The loss was damaging to ISU (17-12, 9-8) in terms of the MVC race — the Sycamores squandered a chance to move into third place. With a win, ISU could have moved into a tie for third with Northern Iowa. The Panthers lost at Southern Illinois.
But conference ramifications were the least of the Sycamores’ worries. ISU’s lack of effort had Lansing and ISU players apologizing to the fans, who witnessed ISU’s worst effort of the season in the home finale.
“Tonight’s game was perplexing. That’s not the team I watch every day. It’s not the team we’ve had in practice the last couple of days. I have to apologize to the fans. It wasn’t a good effort on our part, from the coach on down. The season will end real quick if we compete like that,” Lansing said.
“We had lack of effort,” said ISU guard Jake Odum, who led the Sycamores with 13 points and five assists. “We looked flat and dead out there. It’s embarrassing to go out on your last home game of the year like that. We owe to our fans to do better than we did.”
Arop’s absence — he is ISU’s second-leading scorer at 12.6 points — was damaging. But even taking his absence into account, the Sycamores didn’t muster the kind of fight needed to overcome it. The Sycamores were flat and were one-dimensional on the offensive end. The Sycamores attempted 25 3-pointers, which comprised of 54 percent of their total shots.
“It was a great opportunity for our other guys when people get injured or are out. It’s the next-man-in mentality. I thought we’d really have that tonight. I was excited for some of those guys. There was 30 minutes out there that people could get. I don’t think they took advantage of them,” Lansing said.
Drake gets outrebounded by three on average, but the Bulldogs (14-15, 8-10) won the battle of the boards by a 34-29 margin Wednesday.
“We were soft. It’s something we have to fix. The big guys didn’t play well, I can speak for us. They got too many easy inside buckets. It’s not on the coaches; it’s on us,” ISU forward R.J. Mahurin said.
ISU shot 34.8 percent from the field and scored just 16 points in the paint.
“They were playing really soft on the perimeter. Teams have been doing that to us all year, so it’s nothing new,” Lansing said. “Whereas [Drake] was getting deep catches and finishing at the rim, we were getting pushed off the block, shooting off-balance shots, not finishing, and not getting to the foul line enough.”
ISU converted three of its first four 3-pointers to take a 12-6 lead, but those made 3s masked the fact that the Sycamores weren’t getting the ball inside. Despite that, ISU still led 21-16 with 4:53 left as Drake struggled from the field.
That was the high-water mark as the Sycamores wouldn’t score again for the remainder of the half. Drake finished the half on an 11-0 run and took the lead for good on a Rich Carter layup with 3:26 left in the half.
“That’s the sign of a weak team right there. We’re up four or five and then go down at the half four or five. We didn’t come to play,” Odum said.
Drake led by six at the break.
“We got off to a decent start and then I don’t know what happened. I can’t think of anybody who played well. I can’t think of anybody who competed,” Lansing said.
ISU let its defensive guard down to start the second half and Drake’s lead reached double-digits by the 17:09 mark. ISU never got off the mat, lowering its deficit to single digits just twice for the remainder of the game.
Fifteen of ISU’s 3-point attempts came in the second half. In a stretch that spanned the 16:51 to the 9:36 mark, ISU was 1 of 8 from 3-point range and only had four two-point attempts.
“Our big guys are guys who can play on the perimeter. They can do some things out there, but they do it too much. We need to attack the basket with our pick-and-roll. They need to post and post deeper. We work on it every day and will continue to work on it, but certainly didn’t see it tonight,” Lansing said.
ISU has a lot to think about before it ends the regular season Saturday at Evansville.
“I’m not happy about tonight. I’m disappointed in myself. I sit up there all the time and I take 100 percent of the blame for putting out a product like that. It is my fault, and when I say it, I mean it. I’m disappointed in how the team performs,” Lansing said.
“The coach gets credit when the team is playing good and should get blame when they’re not playing good. It was a huge game and for us to perform like that is disappointing,” Lansing added.
DRAKE (67) — Clarke 4-6 2-4 10, Simons 3-13 2-2 10, VanDeest 6-7 2-2 14, Carter 5-9 4-5 15, Hines 2-7 4-4 9, Ricks 0-2 0-0 0, Jeffers 0-0 0-0 0, Mason 3-3 0-0 8, King 0-4 1-2 1. Totals 23-51 FG, 15-19 FT, 67 TP.
INDIANA STATE (56) — Gant 1-5 1-1 3, Mahurin 4-12 2-3 12, Cummings 3-8 3-4 10, Odum 4-7 4-6 13, K.Smith 1-2 2-2 5, Kitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Eitel 2-6 0-0 6, Brown 0-1 3-5 3, R.Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 1-5 1-2 4. Totals 16-46 FG, 16-23 FT, 56 TP.
Halftime score — DU 27-21. 3-point goals – DU 6-24 (Simons 2-9, Mason 2-2, Hines 1-5, Carter 1-3, King 0-3, Clarke 0-1, Ricks 0-1), ISU 8-25 (Mahurin 2-8, Eitel 2-4, Cummings 1-5, Odum 1-3, Burnett 1-3, K.Smith 1-1, Gant 0-1). Rebounds — DU 34 (Clarke 10, Simons 7, VanDeest 6, King 5, Hines 3, Carter 2, Mason), ISU 29 (Cummings 7, Odum 4, Team 4, Gant 3, Eitel 3, Brown 2, Burnett 2, K.Smith, Kitchell), Assists — DU 16 (Carter 4, Jeffers 3, King 3, Clarke 2, VanDeest 2, Simons, Hines), ISU 13 (Odum 5, Gant 2, Cummings 2, K.Smith, Eitel, Brown, Burnett), Steals — DU 6 (Clarke 2, Carter, Hines, Ricks, Mason), ISU 6 (Cummings 3, Odum 2, Eitel), Blocks – DU 4 (VanDeest 3, Carter), ISU 2 (Mahurin, Eitel), Turnovers – DU 9 (Simons 2, Carter 2, Jeffers 2, Clarke, Mason, King), ISU 11 (Gant 2, Mahurin 2, Odum 2, Eitel 2, Kitchell, Brown, Burnett), Total fouls — DU 21, ISU 18. Fouled out — Hines. A — 5,054.
Next — ISU (17-12, 9-8) plays at Evansville and Drake (14-15, 7-10) plays host to Southern Illinois on Saturday.