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December 2, 2012

Odum electrifying but ISU falls short in overtime to No. 25 New Mexico

TERRE HAUTE — If you had to put one performance by Indiana State guard Jake Odum in a time capsule, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than the show he put on at Hulman Center on Saturday.

With Indiana State down 19 early in the second half, Odum was the catalyst as the Sycamores fought back to force overtime against No. 25 New Mexico. The 6-foot-4 junior point guard had 21 second-half points.

But while Odum was electric, the reward the Sycamores fought so hard for wasn’t there for them in the end. New Mexico took a breath after 40 minutes, hit some key shots in overtime and escaped Hulman Center with a 77-68 victory in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge game.

Odum was scintillating. The Terre Haute native had 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The loss stung, but Odum was also able to put it in perspective.

“It’s tough to swallow. You fight back, you compete the whole game, but you lose,” Odum said. “It’s an emotional roller coaster, but it proves we’re just as good as teams like that.”

Odum’s performance drew the highest praise from New Mexico coach Steve Alford, who knows a thing or two about how to excel as a college guard.

“I told him after the game that we played UConn, we played Davidson, who has great guards, we played George Mason, who has great guards. In my mind, I thought he was the best guard we’d seen on tape and he proved that,” Alford said.

“I told him that’s what makes great players. When the scouting report says you’re good and then you play really good. He’s a terrific guard,” Alford added.

Adding to Odum’s tally was a double-double by Manny Arop who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Dawon Cummings also had 10 points.

ISU hurt itself at the line and from long range. The Sycamores were 18 of 30 at the free throw line. ISU missed its first five attempts and was 2 of 7 in the first half. ISU was also 4 of 23 from 3-point range.

“We missed 12 free throws and were 4 of 23 from the 3-point line. They’re not guarding you at the line, we should make those, but I thought other than one or two of them, we were wide open [on the 3s]. I’m going to stand by them. Those guys are good shooters,” Lansing said.

The comeback began in weird fashion. Down 15 with 14:47 left, Odum missed the front end of a one-and-one. But everyone on the floor aside from Odum assumed it was a double-bonus foul shot. No one moved in the free throw lane as Odum picked up the loose ball and dunked it for a bizarre conversion.

The unlikely bucket kick-started an 18-7 ISU run that cut the Lobos’ lead to 51-47. Arop scored the last six points in the rally.

“I thought we had more of a sense of urgency defensively in the second half than we did in the first half. We got some stops and made some shots,” Arop said.

As ISU fought to stay in the contest, Odum’s will to claw ISU back into the game morphed into sublime theater, no more so than on consecutive ISU scoring possessions that cut New Mexico’s lead to two.

On the first, Odum outfoxed his defender on the right wing, at one point going to his knee while maintaining his dribble, before he drove baseline and scored a contested bucket. After a New Mexico miss, Odum threw a three-quarter-court pass to Cummings under the ISU bucket, who laid it up and was fouled. The Lobos’ lead was cut to two.

“He basically willed this team back in it. It was a tremendous effort by a really good player,” Lansing said.

Still, it seemed regulation would end in frustration as ISU missed several shots that could have tied the game. New Mexico led 62-57 with 30 seconds left when Justin Gant drained a 3-point bucket that gave ISU a lifeline, down two.

After the teams traded points again, New Mexico’s Kendall Williams missed a pair of free throws with 14.7 seconds left to give ISU the final possession.

Inevitably, the ball was in Odum’s hands. He drove into the paint, put a double move on New Mexico’s post defender and leaned in to convert a difficult shot with three seconds left to tie the game.

Alas, overtime was the Lobos’ time, or more specifically, Hugh Greenwood’s time. The sophomore Australian guard drained a 3-pointer to get New Mexico pointed in the right direction and the Sycamores couldn’t recover.

Greenwood later hit a short jumper at the death of the shot clock to put the Lobos up five with 2:17 left. ISU would pull within a possession one final time with 1:14 left, but would not score again in the extra period.

“I think those two shots gassed us more than anything else. I think if we’d have hit a bucket and maybe they missed one, we’d have been OK,” Lansing said.

The first half was a case in contrasts for ISU. The Sycamores got off to a promising start. Manny Arop scored all of ISU’s points as the Sycamores took a 7-2 lead. ISU had energy on both ends and was outrebounding the Lobos early on.

When Odum picked up his second foul with 15:03 left, ISU’s offense bogged down. ISU hung in until the eight-minute mark, but then the Sycamores fell apart under the weight of their own mistakes.

It started at free throw line as ISU missed its first five attempts. It then spread to the defensive end. Miscommunication on ISU’s part helped the Lobos get some momentum.

Williams took advantage. He scored 13 of his 15 first-half points in the final six minutes of the period as the Lobos built a 33-19 halftime lead. Williams would go on to lead the Lobos with 24 points.

Lansing blamed himself for ISU’s first-half woes.

“I’m not a big sets guy and I ran a lot of different stuff to start that game in the first half. We had 11 turnovers in the first half and didn’t have any in the second half,” Lansing said. “I overthought myself in the first half. In the second half, I let them play. We put the ball in No. 13’s hands [Odum] and it was go. I wish I had that first half back.”

ISU (4-2) next plays at Morehead State next Saturday. It’s the return game from the Eagles’ visit to Hulman Center for BracketBusters in the 2011 season.

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