Have you ever hit the snooze bar on your alarm clock one too many times, but saved yourself before you slept in too late?
That's the kind of feel Indiana State's men's basketball team gave in its 62-55 win over Division II Missouri-St. Louis on Saturday at Hulman Center.
The Sycamores had about 15 minutes of play that helped push the game in their favor, but no one was satisfied with the 25 minutes in which the visiting Tritons had command of the proceedings.
"I'm happy with the win, but frustrated with the middle 25, even close to 30 minutes. I thought we started well and then we got into a big lull," ISU coach Greg Lansing said. "It's a win, but it's not good enough. We have to be a lot better."
"We can't play like we did at the start of the game in this game. We have to learn from it and be more focused," ISU guard Tyreke Key said. "We have to not start as slow as we did, execute better, not turn the ball over and play as hard as we can."
ISU never trailed by more than three, but that deficit occurred at the 10:52 mark, when UMSL led 43-40. ISU responded with a 22-6 run from the 9:31 mark to the two-minute mark to put the Tritons away. Key, who had 16 points for the Sycamores, scored 10 points in the surge.
Still, there was a lingering feeling that a late run like that shouldn't have been necessary.
"You want to take the win and run with it, no matter who you play against, but you also learn from a team like that. They were really well-coached and they took a lot of things away from us. The win wasn't as pretty as it needed to be, but we learned a lesson and we'll build on it," ISU guard Cooper Neese said.
There were statistical positives for the Sycamores. Neese led all scorers with 19 points on 4 of 6 shooting. ISU was 19 of 24 at the line, crucial in the 22-6 run as UMSL was in the bonus and ISU was 11 of 14 during that stretch.
ISU (3-4) started the game well too. The Sycamores kept Tritons' leading scorer Jose Grubbs off the score sheet and ISU was able to tap multiple scoring sources to build a 20-13 lead with 9:02 left in the first half.
Then the Sycamores came to a screeching halt. ISU had 12 empty possessions in a row, with turnovers on four of them. UMSL didn't remotely take maximum advantage of ISU's drought, but scoring on three of 13 possessions was good enough to slip ahead 21-20. ISU settled for a 25-24 halftime advantage.
Was ISU guilty of letting its guard down when it took an early lead?
"Yes. Absolutely. You don't want to say it, but it's a Division II team, you get up early, and you think it's going to be easy. Those guys aren't going to stop fighting and competing. They punched us right in the face," Lansing said.
The Tritons (6-2) came out committed to start the second half, scoring on their first four trips to inch ahead by two. The lead was traded seven times and there was one tie over the next seven minutes as UMSL led 43-40.
Lansing felt the worm turned when ISU was able to pick up its offensive pace in its game-winning surge.
A pair of Neese free throws with 7:47 left put ISU up for good and it started a stretch in which ISU scored on seven straight possessions. Nearly all of the points were scored at the line or via drives to the basket. Part of ISU's success came from better aggressiveness and attacking UMSL's pack defense.
"People really pack it on [ISU] and it gets you standing. All of the sudden you're at 10 seconds on the shot clock and you have to make something happen. They doubled in the post. We had turnovers, but we picked it up and dictated the pace in the final 10 minutes," Lansing said.
ISU next hosts North Dakota State at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, part of a men's-women's doubleheader as the women will play Marshall at 8 p.m.
Though style points weren't gained, ISU has won three in a row. That's something for the Sycamores to hang their hat on.
"We definitely have to play better and smarter. You take a win any way we can get it. We have to take the court these next couple of days and improve. Our next opponent has five seniors, so they're going to be a lot better," Neese said.