Winning feeling makes it easier for ISU to improve

Tribune-Star file/Joseph C. Garza

The tougher team won: Indiana State coach Greg Lansing celebrates a turnover by Western Kentucky during the Sycamores' 63-54 win in 2018 at Hulman Center.

Indiana State’s men’s basketball team finds itself in a pretty sweet spot.

It’s not just because the Sycamores have won six in a row. It’s more a symptom of winning.

With wins come good feeling, but with wins also comes a clear head and the ability to self-evaluate more objectivity. There’s no fog of losing to create angst, foster finger-pointing or drain confidence.

That’s how the Sycamores have tried to approach their six-game win streak, a surge they hope reaches seven straight wins as Chicago State visits at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“It definitely makes it easier when you get the win, but you can look back on it and see what you did wrong and what the team did wrong, expand on it and get better,” ISU freshman forward Jake LaRavia said.

ISU (6-4) has done several things well. The Sycamores rank 11th nationally in 3-point shooting at 40.6 percent. ISU is rated 35th in fewest turnovers.

But it’s not as if ISU is the finished product. ISU is rated 315th in rebounds and 262nd in assists. Opponents have shot 44.7 percent against the Sycamores, 268th nationally.

The Sycamores also still have lapses, such as letting their 16-point second-half lead against Tennessee State last Wednesday slip to a four-point advantage late when ISU struggled against the press.

“When you get beat and you don’t feel as good about yourself as a team or a coaching staff? It's hard. You’d rather learn lessons in wins than losses,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.

Lansing illustrated the point.

“We had three pages of clips [from ISU’s 78-72 win over Tennessee State] we went over with all of the mistakes we made. We’re far from where we’ll be down the road,” Lansing said.

Still, ISU feels good about itself and is trying to reap the rewards of the positive vibes.

“We’re getting closer together and we’re getting better, practice-by-practice. Our chemistry is getting better every game. There’s a lot more to work on, especially defensively, but I think overall our team bonding has got us better as a team,” LaRavia said.

As for Chicago State? ISU faces one of the youngest teams in Division I. All five starters against Northern Illinois are freshmen as well as seven of the nine Cougars in their regular rotation.

The Cougars (4-9) have beaten just one Division I team – an 89-81 victory at SIU-Edwardsville on Dec. 4 – though Chicago State has had close calls, including an 80-74 loss at ISU’s most recent opponent – Tennessee State – on Dec. 6.

The truth is that Chicago State is a buy game for ISU. And buy games are ones you purchase for a win.

“It’s about us. We have to play better. These guys will be similar to Tennessee State in that you’re not sure what they’re going to be in defensively. You just have to play and be in attack mode regardless,” Lansing said.

Brinkmeyer, Martin no longer on roster – ISU has removed center Blake Brinkmeyer and Tyeshon Martin from the roster.

Martin, a walk-on, played four games this season. His last game was ISU’s home opener against Missouri-St. Louis on Nov. 30. In 2018-19, Martin played 15 games and scored 16 points.

“We want to thank what Tyeshon has done. He’s been a good leader and tremendous teammate for us. With issues at home? He’s been through a lot since he’s been here. It built to a head and he’s got to step away,” Lansing said.

Brinkmeyer never suited up during the current season. He played five games in 2018-19 and also scored 16 points, with a high of nine points against San Jose State.

In October, Lansing had suspended Brinkmeyer due to academic troubles.

“He’s had it difficult. He’s had injuries and had a tough first summer here. Playing college basketball is not for everybody. It’s very time-consuming and you have to love it. I don’t think it was quite for Blake. He’s a good kid with some other interests and he’s going to look into that,” Lansing said.

Todd Aaron Golden has been Sports Editor and Indiana State beat writer since September 2004. Born in Milwaukee but an Indiana resident most of his adult life, he previously worked in Jeffersonville, Columbus and Eau Claire, Wis.

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