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January 31, 2013

See what Brown can do for ISU

Freshman guard provides spark for Sycamores

WICHITA, Kan. — Indiana State fans have come to expect point guard Jake Odum to shine in big games.

Forward Manny Arop has also earned the reputation as a big-game player.

But some of ISU’s finest moments in the 2013 season have come when Devonte Brown has been at his best. Tuesday’s 68-55 victory at No. 15 Wichita State was no exception.

Brown had 10 points for the Sycamores in their important Missouri Valley Conference victory, but his impact was felt well beyond his scoring total.

Brown also had productive games against Miami (nine points, five rebounds) and ISU’s Dec. 30 win over Illinois State (12 points, seven rebounds), but he acknowledged that this was ISU’s biggest win yet.

“This is a big win for us in an atmosphere that’s just crazy. It’s so hard to win here. For us it was a battle – and it was definitely a battle, it was a war zone out there,” Brown said.

Brown was a menace to the Shockers on the defensive end. He made ISU’s rarely-used 2-3 zone work and lived up to his reputation as ISU’s best one-on-one defender when the Sycamores reverted to their familiar man-to-man sets.

“We threw off their pace on the offensive end and changed things up on them,” Brown said.

Brown was the unquestioned ignitor in ISU’s 17-3 first-half run that gave the Sycamores an 11-point halftime lead the Shockers never overcame.

With WSU leading 25-24 with 3:47 left in the half, Brown drove the lane and converted a traditional three-point play to put ISU in front. The redshirt freshman then converted another layup to put ISU up 29-25.

“Devonte was a key in the first half. He was terrific,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

“The first two three’s of the game [WSU made] were my fault, so I had to give it back in some way. We broke their press and I was able to get in lanes,” Brown said.

He saved the best for last. He stole a Demetric Williams pass on the next possession. He bided his time in transition, but elected to drive the lane himself. Using a spin move in lane, Brown converted a circus reverse layup to put ISU up six.

The crazy conversion would make ESPN’s SportsCenter’s top 10 plays, but more importantly, it gave the Sycamores what they needed to finish the half on a high.

“It felt good about it. I spun and I thought I was fouled, but I had to keep going through the contact. All I know was that I was coming out if I missed it, so I had tremendous focus on that layup,” Brown said.

Art of the zone – ISU has practiced a zone all season long. Lansing has often been heard during games asking his coaching staff whether ISU should go zone.

But Lansing never pulled the trigger. On Tuesday, the Sycamores’ unveiling of their 2-3 zone delivered a double-blow to the Shockers. It had the intended effect of forcing WSU into jump shots and slowing tempo … and it also had the element of surprise.

“Every game we’ve gone into we thought we might use it for a few possessions here and there. Lou [Gudino, Associate Head Coach] thought it would be a great idea to switch things up on them,” Lansing said.

Lansing explained that the Sycamores would go into their zone after ISU made shots. That proved to be often as ISU made 60 percent of its first half shots.

“On a miss, we’d be man-to-man. On makes, we were zone. The guys really followed it,” Lansing said.

ISU played little zone in the second half, but the discombobulation of the Shockers had already been achieved.

“They forced us to shoot outside,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “They sagged in and really took the inside away. When we got it inside, we couldn’t finish. We were 7-for-31 inside the arc.”

The down side of the zone was that WSU snared 19 offensive rebounds, even though ISU had a 35-34 overall rebounding edge. But ISU’s 53.3 percent shooting and WSU’s 27.1 percent counter-acted the Shockers’ dominance on the offensive glass.

While it hasn’t been seen this season, ISU has used a zone in the past under Lansing to throw teams off. One notable occurrence was on Feb. 9, 2011.

Down eight at Illinois State, ISU zoned the Redbirds and Illinois State failed to score a field goal in the final nine-plus minutes. The Sycamores won 56-46, a win which broke a five-game losing skid and which ultimately set ISU on the path for a NCAA Tournament appearance.

Cummings shines in front of former teammates – ISU guard Dawon Cummings had perhaps his best all-around game with eight points on a 4-of-5 shooting performance.

What was gratifying to the Kansas City, Mo., native was that the coaching staff from Coffeyville (Kan.) Junior College – Cummings’ former school – were on hand to see it. Coffeyville, located in the southeast corner of Kansas, is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Wichita.

“It felt good to play in front of my old coaching staff and some friends and family. It feel real good to get a W here,” Cummings said after the game.

Cummings hit one of the most important shots of the second half. His 3-pointer at the 15:50 mark broke a scoreless second-half ISU drought and briefly put the Sycamores up by seven.

“I didn’t know if we’d ever score again,” Lansing said. “Dawon’s got some guts. That was something coming into this game. I talked about guts and intestinal fortitude. Dawon hit a big shot.”

Shockers at a loss – ISU’s zone threw the Shockers off their game, but WSU had questions beyond the defensive decision ISU surprised them with. The Shockers lamented the Sycamores’ ability to grab loose balls and 50/50 balls, and there were many of them in a physical contest.

“They would seem to make every play, no matter what end it was on. They seemed to get every loose ball tonight which bothered me. That doesn’t happen. It’s not just lucky bounces. I have to figure out why they were quicker to the ball and tougher to retrieve it,” Marshall said.

The most notable silenced Shocker was All-MVC forward Carl Hall. The senior came off the bench and scored just two points. He attempted just two shots and made neither of them.

“It wasn’t frustrating,” Hall insisted. “When teams take you away on the block. All you can do is offensive rebound. That’s what I could do to help my team out.”

Williams gave kudos to the Sycamores, not only for their zone, but for their interior defense. R.J. Mahurin, Justin Gant and Jake Kitchell did a fine job on Hall and big man Cleanthony Early.

“They did a good job taking us out of our rhythm,” Williams said. “They didn’t let us dominate the paint. Their zone made us struggle. They made us be an outside team. We couldn’t get the ball much to Carl because they were double-teaming.”

National notice – In addition to Brown’s SportsCenter appearance, the Sycamores’ win was a top trending topic Tuesday night on Twitter and grabbed the attention of national observers as well.

“HUGE win for Indiana State. One of the most impactful of the season by anyone, anywhere,” said ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi on Twitter.

“Indiana State has a NCAA-like resume as we enter February with a road win at Wichita State adding to neutral wins over Miami and Ole Miss,” said ESPN’s Andy Katz on Twitter.

The win vaulted the Sycamores back into the top 40 in the Ratings Percentage Index, putting them back in play for a NCAA at-large bid. ISU has defeated three ranked teams – none at home – and has beaten the top teams in the MVC (WSU) and ACC (Miami) along with the second-place team in the SEC (Ole Miss).

ISU broke WSU’s 19-game home-court win streak and won for just the eighth time in 38 tries at Koch Arena. It was ISU’s first win in Wichita since 2004.

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