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February 17, 2013

FROM THE PRESS BOX: Accountability isn't Lansing's alone in ISU's recent struggles

PEORIA, ILL. — Taking ownership has always been one of Indiana State men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing’s strengths.

When ISU has lost games in his three seasons at the helm that it was expected to win, Lansing has always been willing to fall on the sword and take blame for it.

So it was no surprise in the wake of ISU’s damaging 80-68 loss at Bradley on Saturday that Lansing was in blame-me mode in the postgame.

“We’ve had some slippage over the last week-and-a-half. That’s the head coaches’ fault 100 percent,” Lansing told the Peoria, Ill. media.

“It’s very frustrating. It’s my fault. We haven’t been practicing enough. We’ve been trying to rest them a bit and have fresh legs. They’re trying hard, but we have a lot of things to clean up,” Lansing told the Terre Haute media.

I respect Lansing’s desire to take heat off the Sycamores. I really do. But maybe its time the Sycamores had the heat put on them instead of deflected away.

Lansing is trying to do the right thing by taking blame for ISU’s sloppiness against the Braves, but frankly, it beggars belief that Saturday’s performance was his fault.

I’m trying to figure out what to blame Lansing for.

Avoidance of turnovers was emphasized going into the game, Bradley thrives on giveaways. So what happened? Twenty-one ISU turnovers screams loud-and-clear that the message wasn’t received by the Sycamores.

What else?

Coaches didn’t let Bradley drive to the basket with near impunity or allow 17 second-chance points to a middle-of-the-pack rebounding team.

Coaches don’t make players stagnant — particularly ISU’s post players —when they should be moving in the motion defense.

Coaches don’t make players step on the baseline or sideline at the most crucial stage of the game.

That’s all on the Sycamores and they should take the heat for it. All of it. Contending teams take ownership.

Most of the Sycamores’ players were already on the bus by the time the media arrived after Saturday’s loss. Those who remained were searching for answers.

“We have to figure this out. I’m disappointed and we’re down right now. We have to bounce back somehow, some way,” ISU swingman Manny Arop said.

“I don’t really know where it pulls together, I’m new to this. I’m just going to listen to our leaders,” ISU forward Khristian Smith said. “I’m going to do my best to keep spirits up. We have to keep our heads. We’re still up there. We still have St. Louis. We can still finish strong. We have to do better at taking care of business on the road.”

Some might say that ISU’s positive season — and it has been positive — should be viewed in the proper perspective. ISU was picked seventh in the league after all and they’re in contention for the MVC title.

They’ve been in the national conversation thanks to keystone wins over Miami, Wichita State and Creighton. And it’s hard to win on the road in the Valley.

All true, but all excuses too. ISU has raised the bar. It’s too late to turn back the page and go back to October when the Sycamores had humble expectations.

Losses are one thing — every team loses — but loses in the manner ISU lost to Bradley are not OK from a team that led the league as recently as six days ago. Everyone who’s watched ISU knows they can play better. Regression to the mean (the middle of the MVC pack) doesn’t cut it.

There’s still time. It’s been a bad week, but there’s still three weeks to make up for it. ISU has three MVC games left — two at home — and can still put itself in a strong position for the MVC Tournament in St. Louis.

To do that, the Sycamores have to take ownership when things go wrong. That’s part of the growing process of a team. It’s a lesson the Sycamores are still learning.

Lansing was asked after the game if the Sycamores need to do some self-reflection to get back on-track.

“If you’re a competitor at all, you bounce back from stuff like this. You’re disappointed by the way you play,” Lansing said.

“All I know is that I didn’t do a good enough job in practice the last two days. And I didn’t do a good enough job today. All I know is to work harder. We’re going to get back and practice harder and longer to see if we can’t clean some of these things up,” he added.

Lansing can blame himself, but one hopes the Sycamores are pointing the fingers at themselves as to who needs to clean up what. Accountability isn’t Lansing’s alone.

 Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarTodd.

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