This just in … Hawaii is beautiful.
The crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean entice you. They are contrasted by the volcanic browns of Diamond Head and the lush greens of the mountains of Oahu that can be seen in the distance from Honolulu.
The laid-back vibe is so friendly — Aloha and belated Merry Christmas, by the way. Palm trees are everywhere. I’m convinced palm trees evolved solely to provide all of us with a relaxed state of contentment. Works for me, anyway. It’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.
It’s so easy to be enchanted by a torch fire on the beach and a ukulele to while the time away.
Then the Indiana State men’s basketball team came along. They rode into the Stan Sheriff Center like Vandals invading Rome. There was nothing tranquil or elegant about the Sycamores’ surprise 2-1 performance in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
They took that ukulele and smashed it like Blutarsky from Animal House.
ISU clamped down defensively and just fought in a way not seen since its three-game performance at the 2011 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. And we all know what pot of gold was at the end of that rainbow.
ISU’s opponent shooting percentages were never more than average as the tournament went along. Ole Miss shot 41 percent, San Diego State shot 41.7 percent and Miami shot 33.8 percent.
For all of the sublime heroics and jaw-dropping moves Jake Odum makes, or the dunks Khristian Smith throws down, or the Plasticman-like drives Manny Arop manages to pull off, ISU showed in Hawaii exactly what its bread-and-butter will be.
It will win with defense. It will win ugly if it must. It will be unapologetic about it.
It’s the right way to go. ISU doesn’t shoot well enough from the field to consistently beat teams that way, although it shows signs. ISU’s 9 of 22 3-point shooting against Ole Miss was a big factor in its 87-85 overtime victory on Dec. 22, but ISU’s 4 of 13 against San Diego State and 6 of 25 against Miami has been closer to the norm.
The most encouraging thing that carried over ISU’s three games in Hawaii was its grit. There had been signs of it in the previous eight games, but it wasn’t as consistent as it was in the Diamond Head Classic.
ISU does not have depth in its frontline. Justin Gant, Jake Kitchell and R.J. Mahurin are about it, with Arop and Smith helping inside at times.
Despite that, the Sycamores did a great job taking turns taking the blows inside. Sometimes, it was ugly — Miami dominated the first half and parts of the second — but the Sycamores never quit coming at them. Eventually, the Hurricanes got into foul trouble and wore down. ISU kept going like an Energizer bunny, even after Gant had half of his front tooth knocked out in a rebound scrum.
It’s been under-the-radar, but this grit has been bubbling to the surface all season. A statistic that might surprise you? ISU is currently third in the Missouri Valley Conference in offensive rebounds. You could have won a lot of money from me if you’d bet the Sycamores would be in that spot prior to the season.
If ISU can square the circle between the grit it displayed in Hawaii and gain a measure of offensive consistency, the Sycamores will take off. ISU didn’t play well-rounded games against either San Diego State or Miami and still managed to win one of the games and push the Aztecs in the other.
ISU shot 27 percent in the victory over the Hurricanes, the lowest winning shooting percentage in Division I this season. That’s will to win and pure fight, but it also shows ISU has plenty of room to get better.
It’ll have to. The Sycamores — whose return home to Terre Haute was delayed by the winter storm — will jump right into the MVC fire.
Illinois State — picked to finish second in the MVC — visits Hulman Center on Sunday. ISU then travels to Northern Iowa — picked third — next Wednesday. On Jan. 5, ISU visits Creighton — picked first in the MVC and currently ranked 17th in the Associated Press poll.
“We have the gauntlet coming up,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
Indeed. But ISU just ran a gauntlet in Hawaii. It knows it can handle it. If it means winning ugly, so be it.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And W’s don’t come with style points. ISU has proven its capable of doing the dirty work needed to have a successful MVC campaign.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
This just in … Hawaii is beautiful.
DeNato proves IU can pitch too
Joey DeNato dispelled the notion that College World Series newcomer Indiana is all about offense.
The junior left-hander threw a four-hitter and the Hoosiers looked mighty comfortable at TD Ameritrade Park while beating Louisville 2-0 on Saturday night.
Etherington, Moore happy to be with ISU basketball
Not even two weeks into their college experience, Indiana State freshmen men’s basketball players Alex Etherington and Demetrius Moore stood sentinel as 115 kids ran around them collecting basketballs and getting autographs at the Greg Lansing Basketball Camp on Thursday.
ISU's Johnson invited to World University Games
Indiana State senior Felisha Johnson will be traveling the world this summer after being named to represent the United States in the women’s shot put at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
Q&A: ISU football coach Mike Sanford ready for fall
It’s hard to believe, but Mike Sanford has already been Indiana State’s football coach for six months.
Time flies, but Sanford’s task of preparing for his first season in charge of the Sycamores comes with few breaks.
Rex streak ends at 7
The Terre Haute Rex table setters — Kyle Kempf and Tyler Wampler — had three of the team’s eight hits Friday at Bob Warn Field, but the Rex offense found itself in a big early deficit for the first time this season.
Manaea’s selection puts ISU in spotlight
Once the stress and hang-wringing over where Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea might get drafted was over, the angst subsided and was replaced with a happier emotion. Pride.
ISU’s Hope places 13th in NCAA pole vault
Indiana State senior Nicole Hope concluded her final competition of the 2013 outdoor season on Friday as she tied for 13th in the women’s pole vault at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Metro roundup: Former Sycamores take talents to CFL
Former Indiana State players Johnny Towalid and Justin Hilton were signed by teams in the Canadian Football League this week.
Exit Minnesota, enter Oregon State on 2016 football schedule
When the Big Ten Conference implemented a nine-game football schedule starting in 2016 and discouraged members from playing Football Championship Subdivision teams, there was one game on Indiana State’s future schedule that was likely on borrowed time.
ISU’s scheduled game at Minnesota in 2016.
METRO ROUNDUP: Swift reaches finals of NCAA Championships in 110-meter hurdles
Indiana State junior Greggmar Swift will be among the top eight in the NCAA in the 110-meter hurdles after qualifying for Saturday’s finals on Thursday.
Swift ran a time of 13.51 seconds to take third in his heat. He’ll run in either lane 1 or lane 8 on Saturday.
“I got out pretty good and then I hurdled three or four when I got bumped and it threw me off my rhythm,” said Swift, a native of Barbados. “I tried to get back my rhythm … but I held on for the third place.”
ISU's Manaea selected 34th overall by Royals
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea selected 34th overall by the Kansas City Royals.
Sycamores ready for more NCAA track success
Five of the six Indiana State athletes in Eugene, Ore., already have had some memorable track and field careers for the Sycamores.
But they’ll go ahead and try to add to their list of accomplishments in the NCAA outdoor championships this weekend.
Dustin Betz has been a scorer and key piece of eight Missouri Valley Conference championship teams between track and cross country. He’ll compete today in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as the Sycamores’ second best in the event behind Jordan Fife.
Mike Lucas joins ISU football staff
What traits do head football coaches seek out when they hire position coaches?
Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford provided insight into that question as he hired former Southeast Louisiana head coach Mike Lucas to his staff Tuesday. Lucas will be the Sycamores’ defensive line coach.
“You have to look at your staff and see what you need. I felt like in this particular case, I wanted an experienced defensive line coach. I feel like we have a mixture of experience and youth and I want to keep that going,” Sanford said.
TODD GOLDEN: MVC Tourney can be ISU success story if work is done
Prior to last week’s Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament at Illinois State’s Duffy Bass Field, fear and loathing prevailed in some corners of the conference.
It seemed that Missouri State, Creighton, and most notably, Wichita State, had a monopoly on the season-ending tournament since the Coolidge Administration. (It had actually been since 1998.) How could the tournament make it without playing in one of the three aforementioned universities’ big venues?
- COLLEGE REPORT: Wabash College All-American relay team has TH flavor
Six Sycamores heading to NCAA Track and Field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman punched their tickets Friday to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore. Two more got the job done Saturday on the campus of UNC Greensoboro in the East Preliminary.
Sycamores bow out of MVC Tournament
Indiana State’s baseball was out of pitching, and after a loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Sycamores were out of second-chances too at the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament. What the Sycamores weren’t out of was heart, guts and clutch performances from some unlikely sources. But in the end, Friday’s elimination game rematch against the Shockers was a sampling of ISU’s season overall — the Sycamores were out of luck.
Metro Sports: Chalk up No. 5 for Liz Evans
Senior Liz Evans capped the top career in Rose-Hulman athletics history with her fifth national championship and eighth All-American award at Wisconsin-La Crosse on Friday.
Four Indiana State athletes advance to NCAA outdoor track and field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman have punched their tickets to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore., with their Friday efforts in the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
Wichita State shuts out ISU to force elimination-game rematch
Indiana State starting pitcher Greg Kuhlman did his best.
Actually, he did far better than he ever has previously in an ISU uniform, but while Kuhlman’s gutty pitching effort spoke volumes, ISU’s bats remained ominously silent.
Indiana State baseball now one win from MVC Championship
Indiana State’s Wednesday morning wish list probably read something like this: a dominant complete game effort from starting pitcher Devin Moore, near-immaculate defense to support him, and a steady diet of clutch situational hitting from lineup spots one to nine.
Terre Haute's Mascari running 10,000 meters for chance to get to Hayward Field
Indiana State freshman and Terre Haute North graduate John Mascari is among the enormous group of Sycamores competing this weekend at the NCAA East Preliminary. The top 48 NCAA track and field competitors in each event on this half of the United States are narrowed down to 12 who will compete at the NCAA meet at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
Manaea's shoulder causing him latest pain
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea has battled through so many aches and pains during the 2013 season that it can be hard to discern the serious pain from the pain he pitches through.
ISU's Negele answers call in big way in wake of Manaea injury
When Indiana State starting pitcher Sean Manaea slumped on the mound in obvious pain after he took his warm-up pitches, red flags raised for ISU’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament hopes.
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU track sending record 22 to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
ISU's athletic treasure trove
Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
- More College Headlines
- DeNato proves IU can pitch too