News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 1, 2012

Coaches meet again as Sycamores face No. 25 Lobos

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State coach Greg Lansing and New Mexico coach Steve Alford are not only cut from the same cloth in terms of coaching philosophy, but they were both part of the same gold-and-black “cloth” at Iowa from 1999-2006.

Lansing, Alford’s former assistant, will match wits with his former boss at 2 p.m. today at Hulman Center as Alford’s No. 25-ranked New Mexico team visits Indiana State in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge.

Lansing and Alford have sprung from the same coaching roots. Alford, of course, played at Indiana from 1983-87 and has tailored the philosophies of his former coach Bob Knight to his own ideas.

Lansing worked under Royce Waltman — a former Knight assistant who also adopted Knight’s ideas — at ISU prior to taking a job on Alford’s staff at Iowa, Lansing’s home state.

Given that both men spent seven seasons together, familiarity is a given, but both coaches deflected that dynamic of this game.

“Players make plays.

“You know a lot of things they do, just like he’s going to know mine, because a lot of mine are his and coach Waltman’s. We’ll both change some things, but what you’ll see is two teams trying to assert their will and both will be prepared,” said Lansing, who was visited by Waltman during ISU’s Thursday practice.

Lansing was fired by Alford in 2006 and returned to ISU to join Waltman’s coaching staff in Waltman’s final season with the Sycamores. Lansing was retained by Waltman successor Kevin McKenna and then became ISU’s head coach in 2010.

Alford himself was gone from Iowa in 2007 as he took New Mexico’s job.

Lansing is complimentary of Alford’s influence on his career.

“He gave me the opportunity to work at a dream job of mine. I owe him a lot. When I was at Iowa, I learned how hard to work, to be a student of the game, to watch tape and those things. A lot of what I know I owe to him. It’s great to get him back in his home state and play his team,” Lansing said.

Lansing indicated no awkwardness about facing Alford given the circumstances of Lansing’s departure from Iowa.

“It’s about two good teams playing, I hope. I know how good he is, I know how prepared he’ll be. It’s just two basketball teams playing,” Lansing said.

For Alford, the script is flipped from the days when he used to return to IU and face Knight. Now Alford faces a former assistant of his … in Alford’s return to his home state. Alford said he keeps tabs on Lansing’s progress.

“It’s difficult to face someone who was on your staff because you root for them all year long. There’s certain scores I check everyday and Indiana State and Greg’s team are one that I keep a close eye on. He’s done a great job,” Alford said. “You root and pull for them all year … then you have to face them. It’s tough.”

What’s going to be tough for the Sycamores is contending with New Mexico’s depth. The Lobos have six players who average more than seven points a game, led by Tony Snell at 13.7. Point guard Kendall Williams averages 4.9 assists in addition to his 12.9 points per game.

Then there’s big men Alex Kirk (7-0, ) and Cameron Bairstow (6-9) both of whom pose matchup problems for the Sycamores.

“They’re really good. You have to guard all of their guys. They have great depth at the guard position, they can keep coming at you in waves. You can’t help off of anyone, you have to guard,” Lansing said. “The best thing I’ve seen about them is that they share the ball, they gave it to the right guy virtually all the time.”

ISU will have to guard with discipline too. New Mexico has shot 203 free throws to their opponents’ 98 attempts. The Lobos have made 78.8 percent of their freebies.

“I remember being with coach Alford for seven years and that’s one thing he talked about all the time. A big key is defending without fouling,” Lansing said.

Alford is impressed with what he’s seen on tape of the Sycamores. ISU has won four in a row since its loss at UCLA.

“They work hard, they’re unselfish, they’re playing defense and they’re not turning the ball over,” Alford said.

“It’s never easy coming on the road and playing a team like that. I like that we’ve won three games away from home, but it’s a difficult contest. Add in the fact that we’re ranked, and everything that encompasses, and its adds a whole new challenge,” Alford added.

ISU has lost three in a row against ranked competition. Its last win against a ranked team was a 61-55 victory at Vanderbilt in December 2011. ISU had defeated the last three ranked nonconference foes that have played in Hulman Center dating to the 2000 season.

No. 25 New Mexico at ISU

Tipoff – 2 p.m. at Hulman Center

Broadcasts – TV: WTWO-TV 2. Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5. Twitter: @TribStarTodd

Last time out – ISU defeated High Point 76-62 last Sunday. New Mexico beat Mercer 76-58 on Wednesday.

Series – First meeting.


The players

Indiana State Sycamores (4-1) – G Jake Odum (6-4, Jr., 13.2, 4.8 apg, 4.4 rpg), G Lucas Eitel (6-2, Jr., 9.2), F Manny Arop (6-6, Jr., 8 ppg, 5.8 rpg), F Jake Kitchell (6-10, So., 3.2) and C Justin Gant (6-8, So., 7.8, 5.6 rpg) are possible starters. F R.J. Mahurin (6-8, Jr., 10.8, 4.4 rpg), G-F Khristian Smith (6-6, Fr., 8.4), G Dawon Cummings (6-4, Jr., 4.4), G Devonte Brown (6-3, Fr., 2.8), F-C Rhett Smith (6-7, Fr., 0 ppg), G Brandon Burnett (6-6, Fr., 0 ppg) and F T.J. Bell (6-8, Fr., 0 ppg) are key reserves.

Coach – Greg Lansing (42-30 at ISU, 3rd year).

No. 25 New Mexico Lobos (7-0) – G Kendall Williams (6-4, Jr., 12.9, 4.9 apg), G Tony Snell (6-7, Jr., 13.7), G Hugh Greenwood (6-3, So., 7 ppg, 5.7 rpg), G-F Chad Adams (6-6, Sr., 4.3) and C Alex Kirk (7-0, So., 11.7, 8.9 rpg) are possible starters. F Cameron Bairstow (6-9, Jr., 9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Demetrius Walker (6-2, Jr., 8.3) and G Jamal Fenton (5-9, Sr., 6.8) are key reserves.

Coach – Steve Alford (133-46 at New Mexico, 6th year; 441-229 overall, 22nd year).

Injuries – For ISU, C Mike Samuels (foot) is out.

Next – ISU plays at Morehead State next Saturday. New Mexico plays host to USC on Wednesday.