TERRE HAUTE —
Bradley’s men’s basketball team had a six-point lead in Hulman Center with eight minutes to go against Indiana State a month ago.
The Missouri Valley Conference’s leader in offensive rebounds, Tyshon Pickett, helped the Braves snag 12 second-chance opportunities in that game, but ISU still pulled out the victory behind Lucas Eitel’s clutch 3-point shooting.
Finishing out defensive possessions has been an issue at times for the Sycamores, who allowed offensive boards at a rate of 9.3 per game during their first 10 MVC games.
In its last two games, ISU has allowed a total of six. Senior Manny Arop, who has a team-best 15 boards in those games, said the Sycamores are trying to make it a trend tonight at Peoria, Ill.
“They killed us on offensive glass, so we know it’s going to be a great challenge for us because rebounding has been a challenge for some of the games for us,” Arop said.
“This is a great opportunity to test our toughness, see how much better we’re getting at rebounding.”
Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said securing defensive rebounds is important tonight and in the grand scheme of getting better.
“For a long time, we weren’t doing our rebounding drills in practice and we’ve kind of started going that a little bit more even though I don’t like getting guys banged up.
“We’ve done a nice job against Wichita and Drake, and Bradley hurt us here. It’s very important for us to finish our defensive possessions,” Lansing said.
Second-chance opportunities for Bradley means more shots for Walt Lemon Jr., who’s averaging 17 points and needed 22 field-goal attempts to get 22 points against ISU in the first meeting.
Lemon and the Braves have won five of their past seven games to pull into a four-way tie for third place in the league with a 6-6 record.
“I picked them third at the start of the year,” Lansing said. “[Coach] Geno [Ford], they were bringing them along, guys just weren’t playing as well as they needed them to [early in the year]. He’s got them going now.”
ISU sophomore Khristian Smith compared the Braves to a team known as the toughest in the MVC. Bradley forced the Sycamores into 14 turnovers and 39-percent shooting in the previous meeting.
“That’s them,” he said. “That’s how they play. They grind you out. They’re physical. They’re similar to a Wichita, not exactly like them. [But] their defense is outstanding. We just have to find the offensive spots to match their defensive schemes.”
Smith, coming off an 18-point performance, is leading the team with a 13.9 scoring average over the last six games.
“There’s no doubt. I consider him a starter but he should get Sixth Man of the Year [in the MVC], no question,” Lansing said. “I know he’ll have a strong rest of the year for us. He does it at both ends of the floor. Just how hard he plays. He’s conscientious on both ends of the floor. He’s a good teammate.”
Indiana State at Bradley
Tipoff — 8 p.m.
TV: None. Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5. Twitter: @TribStarTodd.
Series — Bradley leads 50-30.
INDIANA STATE SYCAMORES (18-6, 9-3 MVC) — G Jake Odum (6-2, Sr., 11.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.2 spg), G Dawon Cummings (6-3, Sr., 10.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 spg), G Manny Arop (6-5, Sr., 11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), F Justin Gant (6-9, Jr., 10.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 0.8 bpg) and C Jake Kitchell (6-10, Jr., 2.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg) are possible starters. G Khristian Smith (6-6, So., 11.3 ppg, 4 rpg), G Lucas Eitel (6-3, Sr., 2.3 ppg), G Devonte Brown (6-2, So., 5 ppg), G Brandon Burnett (6-6, So., 2.2 ppg), F Demetrius Moore (6-7, Jr., 4.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg) are key reserves.
Coach — Greg Lansing (74-50 in fourth season at ISU).
BRADLEY BRAVES (11-14, 6-6 MVC) — G Walt Lemon Jr. (6-3, Sr., 173. ppg, 4.2 apg, 1.9 spg), G Omari Grier (6-4, So., 10.8 ppg), F Auston Barnes (6-7, Jr., 8.5 ppg, 6 rpg), F Tyshon Pickett (6-6, Sr., 12 ppg, 7 rpg) and C Xzavier Taylor (6-9, Fr., 3.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) are possible starters. G Ka’Darryl Bell (6-1, So., 3.2 ppg) and C Jordan Prosser (6-8, Sr., 5.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg) are key reserves.
Coach — Geno Ford (36-56 in third year at Bradley, 155-125 in ninth year overall).
— Craig Pearson