No one said winning was easy. Indiana State’s men’s basketball team knows this all too well after its visit to Green Bay’s Kress Center on Friday.
Though the job was done the hard way, the job was done, and ISU’s 78-74 had the Sycamores celebrating their toughness in the wake of their first victory of the season.
“We were tough. Coach said we’d have to be tough on the road. We had a couple of possessions that didn’t go how we wanted to, but we knew if we were the tougher team, things would work out in the end,” said ISU guard Jordan Barnes, who scored 21 in the second half on his way to a game-high 29-point effort.
Though ISU was outscored by three in the second half, it made plays on both ends down the stretch to seal a victory.
Green Bay had just one field goal in the final 4:18 of the game (finishing the game 1 of 7) and ISU made its final seven free throws of the game.
“[Green Bay] plays different than most teams we’re going to play. They’re very aggressive, full-court the whole game, they’re grabbing and holding and they play 12 guys. You have to expend a lot of energy,” Lansing said.
“You have to have calmness and toughness against their pressure. Today I thought we played with tremendous effort and got really good contributions from everyone who played,” Lansing added.
The win was important for ISU as it wanted to wash away the bad taste from an 86-69 loss at Ball State on Tuesday.
“We battled adversity and fought down the stretch,” said ISU guard Tyreke Key, who had 22 points and four steals. “A lot of us didn’t play the way we needed to at Ball State. Myself? I took it personal. I wanted to go out and play my best and help my team get a win.”
ISU didn’t allow any of Green Bay’s standouts to burn them. Sandy Cohen III led the Phoenix with 16 points, but he was one of just two Green Bay players to reach double-figure scoring.
ISU (1-1) didn’t start Barnes, who sat due to a coaches’ decision. It was a minor infraction for Barnes. Lansing said after the game he was two minutes late for the shootaround bus.
With or without Barnes, who checked in the game at the first stoppage, Green Bay took a 14-4 lead to start the game in the blink of an eye. , there was a distinct feeling of “here we go again” when it came to ISU and its defense.
The Sycamores had been scorched by Ball State in the season opener to the tune of 54 points and 58.8 percent shooting in the second half of a demoralizing defeat.
Two things happened to change the game – and Key was integral to both.
Key got assertive on the offensive end. He scored 10 straight points to help ISU stem Green Bay’s tide and allow the Sycamores to get their sea legs. At the end of Key’s spurt, the Sycamores’ deficit was down to three.
ISU also played zone defense. Key also stepped in Green Bay’s passing lanes and was generally disruptive defensively. ISU fed off of his energy and the worm began to turn.
“Switching the defense helped. Belch [Marcus Belcher, ISU associate head coach] stayed on it about that. I don’t have the courage he does to go to zone that much, but we did a good job with it,” Lansing said.
The last of the points in Key’s surge kick-started a 16-3 ISU run. The Sycamores attacked the basket and shared the ball well.
Defensively, ISU began to trap Green Bay after it crossed the center line and the disrupted Phoenix offense went into a funk. The Phoenix made just one basket from the 13:58 to the 2:58 mark. This went along with a stretch in which the Sycamores scored on nine of 10 possessions to take a 39-26 lead.
ISU settled for a 40-33 halftime advantage.
The second half question was whether ISU could sustain its first half success. Though the Phoenix (1-1) clawed their way back, ISU had some hero plays at opportune moments.
Green Bay cut its deficit to 51-47, but a timely four-point play by Barnes helped the Sycamores keep the Phoenix at arm’s length for a time. Green Bay stormed back again, cutting ISU’s lead to 60-58 with 9:43 left, but a Rickman free throw and Barnes 3-pointer at 8:53 put ISU back up six.
Still, the hero plays couldn’t sustain ISU forever. Green Bay took a 68-67 lead with 4:18 left as ISU’s offense bogged down under the weight of some forced shots and the team generally paid a price for a blizzard of whistles. There were 45 fouls called in the game, 28 called on the Sycamores. Three ISU players – Devin Thomas, Bronson Kessinger and De’Avion Washington – fouled out.
ISU retook the lead when Key converted a traditional three-point play off of a steal with 3:34 left. As it turned out? The Sycamores would not trail again. Green Bay failed to score on three possessions after Key’s play and Barnes would take it from there.
The junior guard scored the final eight points of the game, the most important points being a baseline leaner with 36 seconds left, as Green Bay couldn’t pull even. A pair of Barnes free throws with 10.1 seconds left put ISU up for good.
“It was a good win, especially coming in here and beating a good team on the road. We had to bounce back and it was good for us to come out, play a tough team and finish it out,” Barnes said.
With the win, Lansing pulled even with mentor Royce Waltman in all-time ISU victories with 134.
ISU plays its home opener on Wednesday against Division II McKendree.
INDIANA STATE (78) – Holston 2-6 0-0 4, Key 6-13 9-12 22, Hughes 4-12 1-2 10, Thomas 2-5 2-2 6, Rickman 0-2 1-2 1, Barnes 6-13 13-14 29, Kessinger 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Washington 1-5 1-2 4, Brinkmeyer 1-1 0-0 2. 22-57 FG, 27-35 FT, 78 TP.
GREEN BAY (74) – Cohen III 6-13 2-5 16, Hemphill 3-6 1-4 7, Hankerson 1-8 2-2 5, Smith 2-5 0-0 5, Schwartz 1-5 5-6 8, Pipes 3-8 0-0 8, McCloud 2-9 4-4 8, McNair 0-0 0-0 0, Bell 2-4 3-5 7, Patterson 3-6 4-7 10, Crist 0-0 0-0 0. 23-64 FG, 21-33 FT, 74 TP.
Halftime - ISU 40-33. 3-point goals - ISU 7-13 (Barnes 4-6, Hughes 1-3, Key 1-2, Washington 1-2); GB 7-31 (Cohen 2-7, Pipes 2-6, Hankerson 1-5, Schwartz 1-4, Smith 1-2, McCloud 0-5, Bell 0-2). Rebounds - ISU 45 (Thomas 7, Holston 6, Hughes 6, Key 5, Rickman 5, Barnes 4, Washington 3, Kessinger, Brinkmeyer); GB 38 (Patterson 9, Hemphill 8, Cohen 6, Bell 3, Smith 2, Schwartz 2, Hankerson 1). Assists - ISU 11 (Key 3, Hughes 3, Thomas 2, Holston, Barnes, Washington); GB 15 (Cohen 6, Hankerson 5, Hemphill 2, Smith, Bell). Steals - ISU 8 (Key 4, Washington 3, Holston); GB 3 (Hemphill, Hankerson, Pipes). Blocks - ISU 2 (Rickman, Washington); GB 6 (Cohen 2, Hankerson 2, Hemphill, Crist). Turnovers - ISU 16 (Holston 4, Thomas 4, Barnes 3, Rickman 2, Hughes, Kessinger, Team); GB 13 (Hemphill 3, Bell 3, Hankerson 2, Smith 2, McCloud, Patterson, Crist). Total fouls - ISU 28, GB 27. Fouled out – Washington, Kessinger, Thomas; Smith. A – n/a.
Next - ISU (1-1) hosts McKendree on Wednesday. Green Bay (1-1) plays at Iowa on Sunday.