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November 26, 2012

Marshall native catches fire, perfect from field as ISU pulls away from High Point

TERRE HAUTE — If Indiana State coach Greg Lansing has a personal list of well timed coaching decisions he’s made in his career as a head coach, he’ll have to revise it after ISU’s contest against High Point on Sunday.

Lansing made its first starting lineup change of the season as Lucas Eitel started in place of Dawon Cummings.

The change had the perfect end result … literally. The Marshall, Ill. native converted 9 of 9 from the field, including 7 of 7 from 3-point range, to score 25 points as the junior guard put the Sycamores on his shoulders and carried them to a 76-62 victory.

That decision kind of paid off, didn’t it?

“You reward a guy because he deserves it. He works every day in practice. He was a huge lift and it wasn’t just because he was making shots, it’s because he was defending too. That’s why he got the nod, because of how he defended at Ball State and how he practiced the last couple of days,” Lansing said.

Eitel’s seven 3-point makes in one game tied an ISU record set by Jay Tunnell against Illinois State in 2009. Eitel also shares the consecutive 3-pointers made mark over multiple games with Tunnell as Eitel has converted eight 3-pointers in a row. He made his last 3-point attempt in ISU’s 68-48 win over Ball State last Tuesday.

Eitel also joins Jordan Printy as the only players in ISU annals with perfect 3-point shooting performances in a game.

“There was one game in high school, we played Flora, where I was pretty hot, but that’s up there for sure,” said Eitel, when asked whether he’d ever had a better shooting performance.

“My teammates were screening and giving me good passes. I was able to find some open shots. Once they go down and keep going in, your confidence just grows,” Eitel said.

Eitel was one field goal attempt shy of setting ISU’s all-time shooting percentage record for one game. Ten attempts are the minimum standard to set a field goal record. Eitel could have missed one more attempt and still set the record, which has been held by Joe Warfel (85.7 percent) since 1965.

“It was the Lucas Eitel show. He was on fire. He got some really good looks at the rim and he can shoot it,” High Point coach Scott Cherry said.

ISU (4-1) needed every bit of Eitel’s scoring muscle. The Sycamores trailed a gritty High Point team 32-30 at halftime, but Eitel made three 3-pointers in five ISU possessions to start the second half as ISU turned its halftime deficit into a 41-36 lead barely three minutes in.

Eitel’s perfect shooting sent a jolt through the rest of the Sycamores, who had struggled mightily in the first half from the field. Khristian Smith and R.J. Mahurin scored all of ISU’s points after Eitel’s 3-point outburst as ISU pushed its lead to 52-40 by the 12:26 mark of the second half.

“[Eitel] started, so we knew we had to look for him early. Once he starting hitting shots, I told him to keep shooting. He’s the one guy on my team I want to shoot, no matter if he has three guys in his face. We have confidence in him and tonight was his night,” Smith said.

Eitel made his last bucket of the game, a long two, with 11:40 left, but by then, his teammates were knocking down their shots with regularity. ISU shot 14 of 20 from the field in the second half and had just two turnovers.

Smith was the most active of ISU’s scorers. The freshman had 11 of his career-high 18 points in the second half.

“I attacked the basket. Lately, I’ve been settling for jump shots. I haven’t been getting my head down and being aggressive on offense like coach wants me to be. I had energy on the defensive end too and that helped me,” Smith said.

Though Eitel’s shooting was paramount, ISU also pulled away thanks to its defense on High Point’s high scoring duo of John Brown (20.3 ppg entering the game) and Allan Chaney (17.3). Brown got into foul trouble and scored 10. Chaney scored a season-low six points.

“If you make them take a tough shot on that end, which we did about 80 percent of the time, more often than not, you’re going to come out ahead,” Lansing said.

Eitel also sizzled in the first half, but ISU wasn’t able to capitalize. He converted 5 of 5 from the field in the first 20 minutes, including four 3-pointers and two in the first two minutes of the game. He had 14 points at halftime, breaking his previous career-high of 12 by the 6:35 mark.

But Eitel was the only Sycamore who could generate any offense. ISU moved with little vigor on the offensive end against High Point’s zone defense.

ISU was 10 of 26 from the field, but if Eitel’s shooting is taken out of the equation, the rest of the Sycamores were 5 of 21. ISU was also 6 of 14 at the free throw line in the first half and shot just 56.3 percent for the game.

The Panthers’ bench had 19 points at halftime as it picked up the scoring slack for Brown and Chaney and High Point led 32-30 at halftime.

But the Panthers (3-2) couldn’t keep up in the second half.

ISU has a significant challenge in its next game as unbeaten New Mexico visits Hulman Center on Saturday as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge. The Lobos have already beaten Davidson, George Mason and Connecticut.

The game pits Lobos head coach Steve Alford against Lansing, who was on Alford’s staff at Iowa from 1999-2006.

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