News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 15, 2013

ISU unable to hold 16-point halftime lead at Belmont

Khristian Smith scores career-high 28, but Sycamores fall 96-95

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Indiana State and Belmont's men's basketball game Thursday was a case of timing.

ISU could do no wrong in the first half as it built a 16-point halftime lead. Unfortunately for the Sycamores, the Bruins controlled the second half, and ultimately the game, in a 96-95 Belmont victory.

Khristian Smith had a career-high 28 points, including 18 in the first half. J.J. Mann had 23 to lead Belmont.

The Sycamores didn't know what hit them in the second half. Belmont shot 65.6 percent after halftime and seemingly could got touches close to the basket at will. The Bruins scored 63 points in the second half.

"It's an embarrassment. I guess we let our ego get to us being up 16 in the first half. It fell apart in the second half. The coaches warned us that it could happen. Turnovers and three's could let them come back and that's what we gave them," said ISU point guard Jake Odum, who scored 23, including 16 in the final 5:36.

ISU's sizable halftime lead was gone 11 minutes later. The Bruins opened the second half with an 18-5 run to shave the Sycamores' lead to three.

"We talked about it in the locker room that the first four minutes were going to be big, especially on the road. We came out sluggish," Smith said.

ISU answered with a 6-0 run to push its lead back to nine, but the Bruins relentlessly drove the lane, and with the officials' emphasis on contact being enforced to a tee, Belmont tied the game at 64 midway through the half. Belmont marched to the line 20 times in the second half.

"We got beat with straight-line drives. Right down the lane. Right from the wing straight to the basket. You can't get beat on a straight-line drive because there's no help for that," Lansing said.

"We're not a big pressure defense, so we should keep the ball in front of us. We shouldn't get back-cut because we're not taking stuff away. We're playing 3-point line and in and trying to build a fort. Obviously, they attacked and crushed our fort tonight," Lansing said.

Belmont took a 68-66 lead after a J.J. Mann steal and layup at 8:46. ISU tied it at 70, but a Belmont surge gave the Bruins a 77-70 advantage with 5:54 left. The lead reached 83-74 with four minutes to go.

Belmont scored on 18 of 20 trips down the floor from the 13:21 to the 2:55 mark as its lead reached 89-77. The Bruins had a stretch where it scored on 10 consecutive possessions.

"We're really poor on defense right now and it's not just one thing. It's guarding the ball. Keeping the ball in front of you. It's communication. It's guarding in the post. It's just a lot of things," Lansing said.

Down eight with a minute left, ISU made it very interesting in dying moments. Dawon Cummings' 3-pointer at 34.4 and a Jake Odum traditional three-point play at 22.1 cut ISU's deficit to two.

After a pair of Belmont free throws made it a four-point Bruin lead, Smith hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds left to make it 96-95. Cummings then tied up Mann and a jump ball was called with 5 seconds left and ISU got the ball.

ISU couldn't muster a comeback finish. Odum drove the lane, and despite contact in the lane, no foul was called. Belmont breathed a sigh of relief.

Odum wouldn't use the no-call as an excuse.

"It's basketball. We shouldn't have played so bad for it to even come down to the last play. We can't fault the refs on that," Odum said.

The second half was in sharp relief to a happy ISU opening half.

Belmont made its first five shots of the game, including a lucky deflection off Belmont center Chad Lang's shoulder that richocheted into the bucket, but it soon became evident it was going to be the Sycamores' half.

Even with Belmont's hot start, ISU still stayed within a possession of the lead. Smith then showed the Bruins what hot shooting really can be. Smith scored 11 points in a 16-6 ISU run that put the Sycamores up 24-17.

ISU never let up its aggressiveness on the offensive end and confused Belmont with good defense away from the ball on the Bruins' cutters. ISU made six of its first nine 3-point attempts on its way to a 7 of 12 3-point performance in the first half.

Smith scored every which way. He made three of ISU's first half three's, but also drove the basket effectively and got to the line. When all was said and done, Smith had 18 first-half points and ISU had a 49-33 halftime lead.

Unfortunately, it proved to be ISU's high point.

"The first half was Sycamore basketball. That's the basketball we know how to play," Smith said. "Up 16 at half? It's inexcusable to let it go."

ISU shot 50 percent from the field and its 95 points were the most its scored since ISU scored 102 against Eastern Illinois in a 1999 overtime game. It's the most scored in regulation since 99 were tallied against Tennessee State in 1997.

But scoring prowess wasn't what was on ISU's mind after the game.

"We can score, obviously, but the guys see 49 points at halftime and think it's going to be easy. I think they thought it was over. Certainly, Belmont was the more determined team in the second half," Lansing said.

ISU played without starting center Jake Kitchell. Kitchell became a father on Wednesday. He stayed in Terre Haute with the mother of his child and his baby daughter, Adalyn Grace Kitchell.

In Kitchell's place, Demetrius Moore earned his first career start and played well in his second career Division I contest. Moore had six points and six rebounds.

ISU has another stiff road test coming Sunday as it travels to Notre Dame. ISU will play Belmont again at Hulman Center on Dec. 28.

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