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February 17, 2013

Indiana State's turnover woes prove costly at Bradley

Sycamores suffer costly loss in Missouri Valley race

PEORIA, ILL. — Indiana State was playing to maintain control of its destiny in the fight for Missouri Valley Conference supremacy on Saturday at Bradley.

The wounded Braves were trying to fight their way out of Thursday night at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal, but the Sycamores were just as hazardous to themselves.

Bradley took advantage of ISU’s 21 turnovers — 12 chalked up in the second half — and a sub-standard defensive effort by the Sycamores. Bradley pulled away for an 80-68 victory at Carver Arena.

ISU was in a position to control its own destiny for the Missouri Valley Conference lead, but that opportunity has been squandered. ISU (16-10, 9-6) fell a game-and-a-half behind first-place Wichita State, pending the Shockers’ game at Illinois State tonight.

ISU also fell a game behind Creighton as the Bluejays rallied to beat Evansville on Saturday.

Bradley (15-12, 7-8) scored 28 points off ISU turnovers. The Braves also shot 60 percent in the second half on their way to 52.6 percent overall.

ISU shot 45.3 percent, which included a career effort from Dawon Cummings, who scored 19 on 7 of 8 shooting. But it was not nearly enough to overcome the many self-inflicted wounds the Sycamores brought down upon themselves.

“We turned it over too much; we gave them easy baskets in transition. We gave them 28 points off turnovers and 44 in the paint. You can’t win like that on the road. You can’t win like that anywhere,” ISU forward Manny Arop said.

The 21 turnovers were especially galling for ISU coach Greg Lansing, considering that avoidance of giveaways was an emphasis going into a contest in which the Sycamores faced the 11th-best team in the nation in steals.

“They’re the best in the league at creating turnovers and turning them into baskets. … Our emphasis going into the game was taking care of the ball, sharing it, giving it up, not over-dribbling. We didn’t do that and they took advantage,” Lansing said.

Bradley was also not playing at full strength. Up until tipoff, it was not known whether Bradley swingman Dyrics Simms-Edwards — the Braves’ leading scorer and the nation’s sixth-best in steals — would play. Just before halftime, Bradley’s other forward — Tyshon Pickett — crumpled to the hardwood after he bruised his knee cap.

Simms-Edwards played through 28 minutes of pain and had 13 points, four assists and four steals. Pickett soldiered on in the second half and ultimately had 17 points and seven rebounds.

“We have tough kids. We really do. We want to be known for being winners. When you can suck it up and play when it’s not going your way and you’re not physically at your best, it says a lot,” Bradley coach Geno Ford said.

ISU led 38-35 at halftime, but Bradley took advantage of slack defending by the Sycamores and used a 15-4 run to take a 50-44 lead. Bradley scored on eight of its first 10 second-half possessions.

Bradley would never relinquish the advantage, but the Sycamores stayed close. When Arop made a reverse layup off a tipped rebound by R.J. Mahurin and pass by Jake Kitchell to cut Bradley’s lead to 58-56, the game was there for ISU’s taking with 8:13 to go.

But then the game veered south for the Sycamores.

ISU had two chances to tie the game and both ended ominously in turnovers. Bradley’s Ka’Darryl Bell converted a layup at 6:55 to give the Braves some breathing room at 60-56.

Mahurin then stepped on the baseline while trying to inbound the ball. It would be the first of three unforced ISU turnovers in the span of three minutes in which a Sycamore stepped on the baseline or the sideline.

Bradley pounced. Bell drained a 3-pointer, Simms-Edwards converted a layup and Pickett hit a short jumper to cap a 9-0 Bradley run to put the Braves up 67-56.

The ignominy was complete when Jake Odum rolled the ball down the floor in an effort to preserve time on the game clock. Bell caught Odum looking down the floor and dove for an unlikely steal.

ISU cut the deficit to six briefly in the final minute, but had no comeback in them.

“They got a lot of transition layups and they killed us inside. They threw it to the guys in the post and those guys finished. When they didn’t, they got to the free-throw line. We had two guys go to the free-throw line, so that tells you a little about our aggressiveness,” Lansing said.

ISU put the ball in the basket in the first half — the Sycamores shot 58.3 percent — but the Sycamores’ defensive woes and generosity with the ball were in evidence from the start.

The Sycamores were also 5 of 7 from 3-point range, but the halftime lead was only 38-35 as ISU’s nine first-half turnovers stung.

Simms-Edwards’ presence gave the Braves enough of a lift to take a 21-15 lead at the 11:40 mark.

ISU ramped up the defense and an 8-0 run erased Bradley’s lead and gave ISU a 26-23 advantage. After Bradley tied it, a 10-3 run put the Sycamores up 36-29 with 2:36 left.

Bradley finished the half on a 6-2 run to make its halftime deficit manageable.

“We knew we had to clamp down on defense in the second half, but we didn’t. We were even worse,” Lansing said.

ISU next plays host to Wichita State on Tuesday.

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