SPRINGFIELD, MO. —
Indiana State earned the pole position in the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball standings last Saturday and had its first chance to lead a MVC lap.
But at JQH Arena on Tuesday, the Sycamores crashed in the first turn.
Missouri State afforded ISU the respect it earned as conference leaders with an inspired effort. The Bears’ defense had ISU on its heels for the majority of the contest, and a late comeback effort by the Sycamores fell short in a 67-65 loss.
ISU fell a half-game behind Creighton and Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference. The loss likely dealt a mortal blow to the Sycamores’ NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. ISU was on the bubble entering the contest.
"We're a good team, we're not a bunch of good individuals. Maybe they've done their own thing a little bit too much in the last couple of games. Maybe we're not ready to compete for a regular season championship, we're probably not," ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
Jake Odum led ISU (16-9, 9-5) with 21 points. Manny Arop added 15, but ISU struggled from the field for most of the game against a stout Missouri State defense.
Marcus Marshall led Missouri State (8-18, 6-8) with 19 points. Christian Kirk added 14, 10 scored in the first half.
"They came out ready to play and we didn't. I don't know why. When you're a first-place team, you have to be ready for every team's best shot. And we weren't ready for it tonight," Odum said.
The Bears committed their defense to stop ISU in the paint by fronting the Sycamores’ big men and by cutting off driving lanes. ISU was not able to score consistently inside until its late-game comeback.
Early in the half, ISU made Missouri State pay for its defensive scheme as it converted four of its first six 3-pointers.
ISU led by eight six minutes into the contest and had a somewhat comfortable 26-20 advantage with 4:54 left in the half.
The Bears stuck with their defensive plan and when the three’s stopped falling for the Sycamores, the production tailed off.