News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 22, 2013

Gant scores 18 to lead ISU past IUPUI

TERRE HAUTE — In every meaningful statistical way, including the scoreboard, Indiana State’s men’s basketball team took care of business on Saturday in an 81-61 home victory over IUPUI.

ISU never trailed. The Sycamores converted 55.6 percent of its shots and was better than the Jaguars from 3-point range (46.7-to-27.3 percent). ISU controlled the boards (37-29) and had more assists (17-12).

Yet on the game satisfaction scale — which is measured from 0 to 40 minutes — it only rated a 15. Those 15 minutes of solid play were enough for the Sycamores in their first Hulman Center appearance in a month, but ISU’s inability to maintain consistency throughout the game continued to confound.

“It’s not near enough out of 40, but those 15 were pretty good,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

ISU (8-3) dominated the first five minutes of the game and controlled the last 10. ISU blitzed to a 25-7 advantage and it seemed IUPUI was well on its way to be taken behind the woodshed by the Sycamores.

But the woodshed is foreign territory for ISU, and true to its form this season, ISU let a team it had shown it was better than creep its way back into contention.

A maddening trait? Without question. Especially when there seems to be a different thing each game that halts ISU’s good spurts.

“It’s frustrating. You know how good these guys can be. They do tons of good things. For the rest of the teams on our schedule, if we just play 15 minutes, we’re not going to win any of them,” Lansing said.

Manny Arop played a large role in making sure ISU’s slips in quality didn’t bite too much. The senior had 25 points and a team-high six rebounds. He hit a number of key shots to keep ISU pointed in the right direction, including a second-half 3-pointer with 12:17 left after IUPUI cut its deficit to three.

Justin Gant also had an efficient game. He scored 18 and was 6-for-8 from the field. Jake Odum shook off an off-night at Saint Louis last Wednesday as he scored nine and had seven assists.

In the hunt for the right mix, Lansing switched his starting lineup. Devonte Brown and Demetrius Moore started for Dawon Cummings and Jake Kitchell.

“I don’t make changes because it’s all Dawon or Kitch’s fault. Devonte’s our best defender and we haven’t played good defense. Demetrius’s numbers, compared to all of the big guys, are way better minute-by-minute. We got off to a good start, so it helped. We have seven or eight starters,” Lansing said.

ISU could do no wrong against IUPUI (4-10) in the first five minutes. The Sycamores were active defensively and forced the Jaguars into quick and contested shots. The offense steamed forward with gusto. ISU scored on its first 10 possessions of the game, with a good mix of penetration and 3-point shooting. In the 25-7 start, Arop had nine points — all via 3-pointers — while Gant had seven points.

Then, seemingly in a flash, ISU’s surge petered out. IUPUI didn’t take advantage until Marcellus Barksdale began to penetrate the lane at will. The IUPUI swingman scored 10 points in a 13-5 IUPUI run that helped the Jaguars slice their deficit to five late in the second half. ISU led 39-32 at halftime.

“Our ball screen defense was pretty poor. They drove weak side and our help the helper wasn’t there. It’s something we have to work on,” Gant said.

It was more of the same for much of the second half. IUPUI twice got within three points, but could not dent its deficit further.

Finally, by the 10-minute mark, ISU began to assert itself. It started defensively as IUPUI went six-plus minutes without a field goal. ISU was able to rebuild its double-digit advantage as the tired Jaguars faded down the stretch.

ISU finished with panache. With 2:07 left, IUPUI’s P.J Hubert passed the ball to Cummings at the top of IUPUI’s key. No IUPUI defenders chased, so Cummings had the time to toss the ball off the backboard to himself for a resounding dunk.

It was a highlight reel moment that didn’t please Lansing — “just dunk it and go guard somebody” — but that woke up the crowd and gave the Sycamores something to talk about.

“When I saw him slowing down, I knew something was coming, I just didn’t know what it was,” Arop said. “If there’s one guy on the team I know has the guts to do that in a game, it’s him. He’s got a lot of courage.”

ISU has a week off before it hosts Belmont in an in-season rematch next Saturday. ISU lost 96-95 at Belmont on Nov. 14.

“We have to get a lot better. It’s frustrating for me. I have to find a way to get to these guys,” Lansing said.

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