News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

January 30, 2014

ISU seniors search for answers

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The questions are simple.

How does an Indiana State men’s basketball team with five upperclassmen in its starting lineup not answer the bell against a Southern Illinois team with three freshmen and four underclassmen in its starting five?

Moreover, how does Wednesday’s 79-60 loss happen to the Sycamores after they had also lost their two previous encounters at SIU against inferior Saluki teams?

The answer is also simple: the Sycamores lacked a sense of urgency. A hard pill to swallow, but ISU’s players admitted as much Wednesday night after a damaging defeat.

Why did an experienced, senior-laden Sycamore team lack that important asset? That’s not as simple to ascertain.

“We talked in the locker room [after the game] about our sense of urgency. Us five starters, we haven’t come out well. We came out flat and that’s what hurt us. We gave up too many offensive rebounds, we had too many turnovers and you can’t do that in a low-possession game,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.

“It’s tough to figure out. We had our two best practices of the year before this game. Sometimes you just stub your toe. We have to learn from it for sure, but we have to put it in the past and move on,” Odum added.

ISU swingman Manny Arop said the plan was right, but the execution was nowhere near what it needed to be.

“It’s extremely disappointing. A lot of people have put in a lot of work, starting with the coaching staff. Coach [Marcus] Belcher [ISU assistant coach] had a perfect gameplan to get done what we needed to get done to win. It’s so frustrating because it was such a simple message, but somehow, some way, we didn’t deliver it,” said Arop, who said that simple message was to “play physical” and be in “attack mode.”

From a game standpoint, SIU’s dominance on the offensive boards — it had six offensive rebounds by the first media timeout alone and eight in the first half — sapped the will out of the Sycamores. ISU never recovered from that early punch in the gut.

ISU’s turnovers — the Sycamores had 14, but many were unforced — and extremely poor free-throw shooting (ISU missed seven of its first eight attempts) just added fuel to the fire.

The disconcerting thing for ISU’s seniors is that losses like the SIU loss Wednesday played a role in their 2012 and 2013 seasons falling short of expectation.

Every team can have a bad night, but ISU’s senior group was committed that lapses would not happen again. Certainly, the lack of mental focus evident against SIU was supposed to be a thing of the past.

Given that progress toward a NCAA Tournament at-large berth was at stake and that ISU’s seniors have a month-plus left in their careers, the lack of effort and the mistakes were even more baffling.

“We have to have that sense of urgency. We’re halfway through the conference now and we played pretty well until tonight until we stubbed our toe,” Odum said. “We know we can’t do that. We realize that every game is so valuable to us. Not only because we want to win, but because they’re our last games also. We definitely have to crank the sense of urgency up.”

With a road game at Northern Iowa on Saturday and a home game against No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, it will be a challenging task for the Sycamores to minimize the damage.

ISU has won 14 of 17, and that shouldn’t be forgotten, even in the wake of a bad loss, but chains rattled by the ghosts of 2012 and 2013 can be heard, especially by ISU fans that fear a repeat is in the cards.

So what onus do ISU’s seniors put on themselves to right the ship?

“Me as a senior? I’m not even worried about me. I’m worried about the team. It was a team loss. We have to find a way to put the pieces back together,” ISU guard Dawon Cummings said.

“We have to start with us and everyone has to look at themselves and figure out what each of us can do to get better,” Arop said.

Odum, the lone fifth-year senior, will feel the heat the most. Can he muster the leadership needed to make the SIU loss a blip instead of the harbinger for something worse?

“It falls on all us and it falls on me the most. I’ve been here the longest and been through thick and thin. Taking a loss here cuts deep. I put a lot on my shoulders and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I have to take the blame and get my team ready to go. I just didn’t do it tonight,” Odum said.

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odum.jpg

Indiana Pacers' Jake Odum (23) takes a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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odum.jpg

Indiana Pacers' Jake Odum (23) takes a shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Terre Haute Rex
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