CARBONDALE, Ill. —
High turnover totals and shaky 3-point shooting are nothing new for the Indiana State men’s basketball team.
ISU has averaged 13.3 turnovers per game and is shooting 32.5 percent from 3-point range. The Sycamores rank 204th and 221st nationally in those categories, respectively.
The Sycamores have been able to overcome turnovers and inconsistent 3-point shooting primarily by creating a defensive identity that has helped them grind their way through games.
But that identity was nowhere to be found in Saturday’s 76-71 loss at Southern Illinois. So when the turnovers and poor 3-point shooting cropped up again, there was no antidote for the Sycamores to heal what ailed them.
“We didn’t have a consistent effort. You have to give credit to SIU. They had a lot of energy and they were the hungrier team. That’s not us. We’re usually the hungrier team,” said ISU forward Manny Arop, who led ISU (10-6, 3-2) with 16 points.
The Salukis’ offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping — SIU shot 41.2 percent, two percentage points worse than the Sycamores — but SIU’s success went beyond mere shooting percentage.
ISU’s primary defensive strength has been its help defense, but SIU (8-8, 1-4) broke that down by penetrating and relentlessly driving the lane.
Swingman Desmar Jackson reaped the benefits. The senior scored 29 — the highest total any opposing player has scored against ISU this season — and was 8 of 15 from the field.
Jackson was also 12 of 13 at the line as ISU’s defense also uncharacteristically failed to defend without fouling. SIU went to the line a whopping 42 times, converting 32 of the freebies.
“Our strength has been our help defense and it wasn’t what it usually is, and you can’t bail out with fouls,” coach Greg Lansing said.
Aside from Jackson, SIU missed a bevy of open shots, both on the perimeter and in the lane, but made up for it by outworking ISU on the boards.
ISU’s rebounders had the chronic inability to hold on to the ball in the paint, which cost the Sycamores repeatedly as the more sure-handed Salukis took the ball away and converted the second chances. The Salukis had 34 points in the paint and 14 second-chance points.
“I can’t tell you how many times we had the ball in our hands and they knocked it away. They’d get a rebound after we had a good defensive possession. They did a lot of the little things it takes to earn a tough victory,” Lansing said.
The inability to get it done on the defensive end exposed ISU’s weaknesses elsewhere.
SIU also took maximum advantage of ISU’s 19 turnovers as the Salukis scored 21 points off them.
ISU couldn’t shoot its way out of trouble. ISU was 6 of 23 from 3-point range, but half of ISU’s makes came in the final 23 seconds of the game. ISU was 3 of 19 to that point.
Not coincidentally, the last time ISU combined a lackluster defensive effort, high turnovers and poor 3-point shooting was its 71-63 loss at Morehead State on Dec. 10. In that game, ISU had 17 turnovers, shot 22.7 percent from 3-point range and the Eagles converted 48.9 percent from the field in that defeat.
“We deserve what we got tonight. We put on the board tonight, ‘Be the more desperate and determined team.’ I thought from start to finish, [SIU] was the more desperate and determined team. They wanted the win more than we did,” Lansing said.
ISU (10-6, 3-2) has a chance to recover as three of its next four games are at Hulman Center. Missouri State visits on Wednesday.