CEDAR FALLS, IOWA —
Indiana State's men's basketball team and coach Greg Lansing finally figured it out.
Don't get even(-keeled). Get mad.
That's what Lansing did at halftime after the Sycamores trailed by 11. To that point, ISU had played with a complacency, especially on the defensive end, that caused them to lose at Southern Illinois on Wednesday and to eek close wins over the Missouri Valley Conference's lesser lights in other games.
But enough was enough. At long last, the Sycamores reached down and fought back with a vengeance.
Lansing ranted and raved and the Sycamores responded and saved themselves from what could have been a season-altering losing streak. ISU surged past UNI and notched an important 87-81 victory that went a long way towards restoring the Sycamores' pride.
The Sycamores (17-5, 8-2) had to fight out of a deep hole against a team that was previously unbeaten on its home floor to do it. ISU trailed by 12 early in the second half, but a 21-4 run put ISU in front and the Sycamores never relented.
The fire lit under them was hot, but it was needed for a group that sometimes gets too satisfied and let's complacency set in as a result.
"I lost it at halftime. I lost it on the guys. I tried to challenge that starting group. That group has defended well. It hasn't started halves very half. I told them it's time," Lansing said. "I was tired of seeing it. I think the way they came out in the second half showed they were tired of playing that way."
ISU shot 54.5 percent in the second half and UNI missed 16 of its first 20 second-half shots. Dawon Cummings and Khristian Smith led ISU with 18 points. Khristian Smith added 13 rebounds for a double-double. Jake Odum had 17 points, Justin Gant had 14 and Manny Arop had 11.
Was anything Lansing said to the team printable? Signs point to no, but what was said, even if it was delivered at maximum volume, needed to be heard.
"Coach Lansing was the catalyst. He got after us and the message was perfect. He told us we could get after it or let another game go. We let one go on Wednesday. We couldn't make it back-to-back games," Smith said. "He was pretty fired up to say the least, but he was right. We had to be the tougher team."
Odum scored 15 of his 17 in the second half and attacked the basket with far more gusto in the second half. Was it time for the team to be read the riot act?
"We needed a little chewing out," Odum said. "We knew we needed a spark. It needs to come from the players most of the time, but he stepped up and gave it to us. He helped us win this game."
The first half was played at a completely opposite tempo than ISU's 79-60 loss at SIU, but it seemed the result might be the same.
UNI (11-11, 5-5) converted nine of its 12 shots to take a 21-15 lead. For a while, ISU's offense was able to stay within arm's length. UNI's lead was just 31-27 at the 4:53 mark.
Then ISU's defensive will completely unraveled. UNI scored on six consecutive possessions and on seven of its last nine in the half as it led 45-34 at halftime. UNI shot 60.7 percent in the first half.
It seemed ISU was destined to get rolled, but the Sycamores found another gear in the second half as the Panthers' ground to a halt.
After UNI's lead reached 46-34, ISU went on a 19-4 run to take a 55-50 lead. ISU scored on nine consecutive possessions to fuel its surge. Smith had seven points and Cummings six points during the run.
"We know what it takes. We've had halves where we've moved the ball, dove for balls and helped our teammates out. We've been harping on it the whole year to take lapses out of our game. We're too far into the season to keep having lapses," Cummings said.
ISU couldn't maintain its lightning pace, but it picked up on the defensive end. UNI missed 16 of its first 20 shots in the second half. A 9-2 ISU run put ISU up 68-57 with 5:50 to go.
The Panthers cut their deficit to 68-62 at 4:36, but ISU kept up the pressure. A Gant bucket made it 70-62. Then after a Smith steal, he had an important offensive rebound on a Jake Odum miss to extend an ISU possession. Odum scored a layup on the extra possession to put ISU back up double-digits.
An 8-1 UNI run in the final minute cut ISU's lead to 81-79. Odum made a pair of free throws with 23.5 seconds left to make it 83-79. Wes Washpun's pair of free throws made it 83-81 with 19.7 seconds left.
ISU's 30 free throws made and 39 attempts were the most by an opponent at McLeod Center.
Arop then converted two more free throws to make it 85-81. Washpun missed a layup attempt with 9 seconds left and that was that for the Panthers.
"We were aggressive at both ends of the floor. We flew around defensively and talked with one another. Offensively, we finally started moving it and were unselfish. A really gutsy tough effort by our guys against a tough basketball team," Lansing said.
ISU next plays host to unbeaten Wichita State on Wednesday. The Shockers defeated Evansville 81-67 on Saturday.
INDIANA STATE (87) -- Arop 3-5 2-2 11, Gant 5-9 3-4 14, Cummings 6-14 2-4 18, Odum 3-9 11-14 17, Smith 5-10 7-8 18, Kitchell 1-2 1-2 3, Eitel 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 1-1 0-1 2, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 0-1 4-4 4. 24-52 FG, 30-39 FT, 87 TP.
NORTHERN IOWA (81) -- Mitchell 8-14 3-4 21, Rank 1-5 0-0 2, Bohannon 1-7 3-3 6, Tuttle 6-11 2-2 15, Washpun 5-9 8-12 18, Friedman 0-0 0-0 0, Singleton 3-3 1-2 7, Morgan 2-5 0-0 6, Morrison 0-1 0-0 0, Martino 2-2 0-0 6. 28-57 FG, 17-23 FT, 81 TP.
Halftime -- ISU 49-33. 3-point goals -- ISU 9-23 (Cummings 4-8, Arop 3-4, Smith 1-4, Gant 1-2, Odum 0-3, Eitel 0-1, Burnett 0-1); UNI 8-23 (Mitchell 2-6, Martino 2-2, Morgan 2-2, Bohannon 1-7, Tuttle 1-1, Rank 0-3, Washpun 0-1, Morrison 0-1). Rebounds -- ISU 36 (Smith 13, Burnett 5, Team 5, Cummings 4, Arop 3, Odum 3, Gant, Kitchell, Brown); UNI 32 (Tuttle 10, Morgan 5, Bohannon 4, Rank 3, Mitchell 2, Singleton 2, Team 2, Martino). Assists -- ISU 10 (Odum 5, Arop 2, Cummings, Eitel, Brown); UNI 13 (Washpun 6, Tuttle 3, Mitchell 2, Singleton, Morrison). Steals -- ISU 9 (Arop 3, Brown 3, Cummings, Smith, Eitel); UNI 5 (Tuttle 2, Mitchell, Bohannon). Blocks -- ISU 2 (Gant, Cummings); UNI 4 (Tuttle 2, Washpun, Morgan). Turnovers -- ISU 9 (Arop 2, Cummings 2, Odum 2, Smith, Brown, Burnett); UNI 11 (Mitchell 2, Tuttle 2, Washpun 2, Rank, Friedman, Singleton, Morgan, Martino). Total fouls -- ISU 19, UNI 22. Fouled out -- Morgan. A -- 5,127.
Next -- ISU (17-5, 8-2) plays host to Wichita State and UNI (11-11, 5-5) plays at Illinois State on Wednesday.