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February 19, 2013

ISU seeks better ‘effort and enthusiasm’

Missouri Valley Conference-leading Wichita State at Hulman Center tonight

TERRE HAUTE — While Wichita State kicked back and enjoyed a victory at Illinois State on Sunday — or got kicked as the case may be — Indiana State was roughing it.

In the wake of a sloppy 80-68 loss at Bradley on Saturday that featured 21 Sycamores’ turnovers, ISU men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing sent the message home loud-and-clear that ISU needed to clean up its act.

The missive to the Sycamores packed potency and urgency given that the first-place Shockers are on the docket for a 7 p.m. game today at Hulman Center.

“We had a long day Sunday. We [practiced] twice, once in the morning before church and once in the afternoon. We also lifted weights. We used our full allotment of hours we can use. The guys also watched the entire game tape of the Bradley game,” Lansing said.

“We’ve been a much different team than we need to be in the last three games to win games. We had to remind them of the things they did to win some of the games we won,” he added.

ISU (16-10, 9-6) was tied for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference one week ago. After losses at Missouri State and Bradley, ISU has fallen two games behind Wichita State and one game behind Creighton for second place.

So what reminders did Sunday’s detailed postmortem bring to the surface?

“I think a lot of it is our effort and enthusiasm. We’ve been playing a little slow, especially on the defensive end. We haven’t been flying around,” said Lansing, who saw other worrying signs too.

“We’ve been a little selfish on both ends of the floor. We’ve worried too much about our man on one end and worried about making mistakes individually on the offensive end. You can’t play aggressively if you’re worried about making mistakes. We want them to play loose, but they need to compete harder,” he said.

On Monday, at least, it seemed the message had been absorbed by the Sycamores.

“We’ve gotten a little soft,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said. “[Sunday] was a toughness day for us. The coaches wanted to push us to our limit. We watched the tape and we realized we haven’t been playing the way we need to play to finish towards the top of the league. Hopefully we got that back the last couple of days.”

“We had a lot of mental stuff to work on,” ISU guard Dawon Cummings said. “There’s been a lot of 50/50 plays the other team’s been getting. The coaches are irritated with it. We’re all irritated with it.”

While ISU was focused on itself, the nation’s eyes turned to Wichita State after a bizarre 68-67 victory over Illinois State late Sunday that helped the Shockers maintain sole possession of first place in the MVC.

The host Redbirds led by five with 51 seconds to go, but the tenor of the game changed when Illinois State’s Jackie Carmichael kicked Wichita State’s Tekele Cotton on an overly rambunctious defensive rebound.

There was no immediate call on the karate-style kick — video evidence showed that Cotton was likely hit in the head and was kicked in the chest. After WSU fouled the Redbirds, a requested review resulted in a flagrant-one foul call on Carmichael.

The teams traded free throws. Unbeknownst to the officiating crew, which apparently confused the flagrant-one with a technical foul, WSU’s Early — an 80.5 percent free throw shooter — made the free throws when the rules for a flagrant foul dictated that Cotton — a 58.6 percent free throw shooter — should have taken the foul shots.

WSU’s Demetric Williams hit a 3-pointer to cut the Shockers’ deficit to two with 28 seconds left, and after Illinois State’s Johnny Hill fumbled the ball out of bounds, WSU had the ball and a chance to take the lead. They did so when Early hit a 3-pointer with :06 left to cap a crazy finish.

Carmichael’s kung fu made national headlines, and the mistake by the officiating crew on the free throw drew an official reprimand from the MVC on Monday.

Concerns about WSU (22-5, 11-4) playing two games in three nights were muted by both Lansing and by WSU coach Gregg Marshall during the Shockers’ practice on Monday at ISU Arena. Marshall said WSU would be prepared in case ISU went to a 2-3 defense, as the Sycamores used to devastating effect in ISU’s 68-55 victory on Jan. 29 at Wichita State.

“We’re ready. They did a good job and we didn’t. We didn’t move the ball. We didn’t move ourselves. We weren’t making shots. Their defense was really good. They picked their poison on who to pressure and who to sag off on really well. They had a little more want-to than us. That’s rare for us,” Marshall said.

ISU plans a White Out promotion for tonight’s game and expects a good crowd.

As far as any threat of a karate match breaking out, signs point to no.

Or do they?

“I’m actually a black belt. I took taekwondo and went through all of the belts. Once upon a time, I was a Karate Kid,” said Odum, in a bit of levity, after he was asked whether anyone on ISU knew karate.

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