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February 12, 2014

Odum’s 27 points lift Sycamores past Bradley

PEORIA, Ill. — Indiana State point guard Jake Odum always strives to be the quintessential point guard. Achieving that means deferring to teammates to let them get rolling.

Sometimes that means Odum doesn't get himself rolling. But in Wednesday's 68-62 victory at Bradley, the senior showed what he's capable of when he makes himself the vocal point of the offense.

Odum scored 15 of the Sycamores' last 30 points on his way to a season-high 27-point effort.

“I felt it tonight. I felt like I had to take over. I probably should do that some more, but I’m such a team guy and I want to get my guys going it's hard sometimes for me to find that rhythm,” Odum said. “Tonight I got in it. Shots and positive energy were flowing.”

His late offense was needed as ISU trailed 40-38 with 10:57 left to go as another heartbreak at Bradley seemed to be in the cards.

Odum ensured that it wasn’t. He was a freshman on the last ISU team that won at Bradley. He walks away from an arena that hasn’t been kind to the Sycamores (two wins in 16 tries) a winner in his last appearance in it.

“Walking into the locker room [at Carver Arena] didn't bring too many happy memories. I’ve been in there at the end of games where we've blown games here or not competed. We had to make a stand here today,” Odum said.

ISU overcame 18 turnovers and a Tuesday knee injury suffered by Dawon Cummings (who played) to earn the victory. Khristian Smith added 14 points and had nine rebounds. Walt Lemon Jr. led Bradley with 22 points, but struggled for significant stretches of the contest, and had seven turnovers.

ISU (19-6, 10-3) trailed 40-38 with 10:57 to go when Odum ignited the Sycamores. He scored six of ISU's nine points in a 9-2 run that put ISU up 47-42 with 8:33 to go.

“I got into a rhythm early. I kept going from there. Dawon suffered a minor injury on Tuesday so I knew I needed to get to the rim and get some more shots up this game,” Odum said.

ISU coach Greg Lansing thought he saw something good coming from the sideline.

“He took it to another level,” Lansing said. “He was upset. He wasn't happy with the way we started either half. I could see a look in his eye. Just turn him loose and let him do what he's going to do.”

He didn't stop. A 13-foot step-back jumper and a 3-pointer helped ISU increase its lead as the Braves tried to muster a response.

After a Smith 3-pointer made it 55-48 with 2:59 left, Odum fed Smith in the lane for a pair of free throws.

Smith said that to see their senior leader put himself in the role of catalyst is one that makes him and his teammates comfortable.

“I told him it was his game to lead us and he did what Jake Odum does and he took over. It's always less stressful when your leader is taking over the game. He has control, he’s our point guard, he’s our leader,” Smith said.

ISU's lead reached 59-50 with 1:46 to play. Bradley cut its deficit to five with 38.8 seconds left, but the Sycamores made their free throws and were never headed.

ISU finished both halves strong.

The first half was best forgotten until a late Sycamores’ charge gave them a seven-point lead at the break. ISU finished the half on a 12-1 run to take command. Odum was the catalyst as he began to penetrate the lane and get to the line. The rest of the Sycamores followed suit and it got ISU's offense untracked.

It had to be after a rough first 15 minutes. ISU fell into a common trap of relying too much on its 3-point shooting on a night where its shots weren't falling. The Sycamores missed all six of their attempts in the first half, continuing their 3-point slump. ISU would do better in the second half as it hit five 3-pointers.

What saved ISU from its shooting was its defense. ISU’s defense has gradually improved since the Missouri Valley Conference campaign began as Bradley found out first-hand. Despite ISU’s shooting woes, the Braves never led by more than seven, and Bradley's lead was just 19-15 when ISU’s pre-halftime rally began.

Bradley shot 26.7 percent in the first half.

“We were pretty darn good in the halfcourt. We gave a lot of attention to [Tyshon] Pickett and Lemon,” Lansing said.

Pickett and Lemon combined to shoot 12 of 34 from the field.

ISU’s lead reached nine early in the second half when the Sycamores began to take on water. Bradley (11-15, 6-7) scored on four straight possessions to cut its deficit to 35-33. ISU led 38-33 when its sloppiness became chronic.

Five ISU turnovers in five possessions gift-wrapped a chance for Bradley to take a 40-38 lead on a Jordan Prosser hook shot with 10:57 left.

But Odum knew it was no time to panic.

“We had to stay composed. We're a veteran team. We've been in these situations on the road. We had to hang in there and play all 40 minutes,” Odum said.

ISU next plays host to Southern Illinois on Saturday. The Salukis pushed Wichita State at Koch Arena on Tuesday before they suffered a 78-67 defeat.

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