TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team has been down the ranked-team road already this season.
That road took them to Los Angeles to open the season. ISU visited No. 13 UCLA and played competitively for 30 minutes before the Bruins overwhelmed the Sycamores to post an emphatic 86-59 victory.
ISU hasn’t lost since and the Sycamores get another bite of the ranked-team apple at 2 p.m. Saturday as No. 25 New Mexico comes to town.
For the Sycamores, it’s a chance to measure themselves against a nationally respected opponent a month into their development. It’s an opportunity they relish after the UCLA game got away from them.
“The younger guys got some experience and know what to expect, but we went out there and got beat by 30, so we know this team is going to be good, talented and they have a great coach. We’ll know more what to expect than when we did against UCLA,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.
The opener was a difficult trial by fire for the six players who made their Sycamore debuts at Pauley Pavilion. Now that the Sycamores’ newbies have their feet wet a bit in the games since, the UCLA experience is one that can be used, in hindsight, as a measuring stick for how they do against elite competition a month later.
“It’ll help in the fact that we know what to expect and how competitive it’ll be. It helps with that mental factor and we know we have to step it up a notch. We know we’re solid, but we also know once we get into the top 25 teams, we have to take our game up a notch,” ISU center Jake Kitchell said.
Ranked nonconference teams rarely venture to Terre Haute. The last ranked nonconference team ISU played at home was No. 15 Butler during the 2006-07 season. No. 18 Indiana visited Hulman Center the season prior to that, but those are the only two nonconference foes to play in ISU’s home gym in the last decade.
Both the Bulldogs and Hoosiers were beaten by the Sycamores in those past trips into Hulman Center. None of the Sycamores are taking the Lobos for granted, but they do expect the atmosphere to be lively on Saturday.
“To get help from the community to be the sixth man in the crowd would be huge for us. To have a team like this coming into Terre Haute is fun. Growing up I saw some teams come in here and there, but it’s rare, so when you get that opportunity, you have to take advantage of it,” Odum said.
n Alford on travel — During his postgame press conference after New Mexico’s 76-58 victory Wednesday over Mercer, New Mexico coach Steve Alford wasn’t looking forward to the short turnaround and long trip from the southwest.
“I’m from Indiana and Terre Haute’s not an easy place to get to from Albuquerque. We have some tough travel ahead of us getting there. Hopefully our guys can get some rest and play well,” Alford said.
n Blue Out planned for Saturday — ISU has encouraged fans to wear blue as part of a “Blue Out” promotion at the game.