TERRE HAUTE —
The second time around has been kind for the Indiana State men’s basketball team this season.
ISU has faced two Missouri Valley Conference teams — Southern Illinois and Creighton — where it lost the first game of the season series. In each case, it won the rematch. In each case, the rematch was at Hulman Center.
Drake is the third MVC team to step into that role at 7 p.m. today and it’s another chance for the Sycamores to reverse the outcome of an earlier loss.
To do so, ISU (17-11, 9-7) will have to slow down Drake’s transition game, keep shooters like Ben Simons and Joey King from getting hot, and more astutely attack a zone defense.
The Bulldogs (13-15, 6-10) were able to use all of the above attributes to earn a 74-71 overtime victory at the Knapp Center on Feb. 2. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from 3-point range, including three 3-pointers by Simons at the beginning of the second half, which gave ISU an eight-point hill to climb in regulation to force overtime.
Drake later used a zone defense to slow down ISU’s offense as the Sycamores had trouble attacking it.
“We have to keep moving the ball. We got stagnant a couple of times when we played up there. They went to a zone and we got stagnant and we can’t do that. We have to keep it moving. We have to attack the rim. We have to be aggressive and get foul calls,” ISU forward R.J. Mahurin said.
ISU — currently in fourth place in the MVC — still has plenty to play for within the conference.
Due to MVC tiebreaker rules, ISU owns the tiebreaker advantage over any team it would be tied with in a head-to-head scenario. Nonconference strength of schedule is the MVC’s second tiebreaker. ISU’s nonconference schedule is ranked 29th in the nation, good for second in the conference.
The only team that has a better nonconference strength of schedule in the MVC — Northern Iowa — was swept by the Sycamores in the season series, so ISU owns that tiebreaker too.
Because of that, it’s still mathematically possible for the Sycamores to earn the No. 2 spot in the MVC Tournament, though ISU would need Creighton to be swept in its final two games to get it, in addition to ISU winning its final two contests.
More likely for ISU would be to gain the Nos. 3 or 4 seeds at Arch Madness. ISU is also still on the periphery of NCAA Tournament consideration. Media outlets such as ESPN still have the Sycamores within range of a possible at-large tournament bid, but a strong finish is necessary to make that long-shot possibility closer to reality.
ISU broke a three-game losing streak with a 65-64 victory over Iona on Saturday. Drake had lost four in a row until last week when it recovered to defeat Bradley 92-84 in overtime. The Bulldogs then went on the road and won its BracketBusters game at Wisconsin-Green Bay 71-54.
“We’ve built a little momentum and played some good basketball over the last week. We’ll have to be at our best on both ends of the court to come out with a win,” Drake coach Mark Phelps said during Monday’s MVC coaches teleconference.
Drake played without blue collar forward Jordan Clarke in the game at Green Bay. Clarke has a knee injury, but is expected to play tonight. Clarke’s presence is vital as he provides the Bulldogs with grit in the paint.
Tonight is ISU’s last scheduled home game of the season. Normally, it would be Senior Night … but ISU has no senior players. With no seniors to honor, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to pay tribute to the fans that have helped ISU achieve a 11-2 home record this season.
“We’ve been a good home team. We have to thank our fans. We don’t have any seniors, but we’ve only lost one conference games here. We want to give our fans a tremendous effort so they can get excited about St. Louis,” Lansing said.
Hulman Center could still host ISU games. If ISU were to play in the National Invitation Tournament, it could host a game or several games if the Sycamores were seeded high enough. There is no bid process for the NIT. The NCAA determines the host schools via seeding.
Drake at ISU
Tipoff — 7 p.m. at Hulman Center.
Broadcasts — Radio: WIBQ-FM 98.5. Twitter: @TribStarTodd
Last time out — ISU defeated Iona 65-64 and Drake beat Green Bay 71-54 on Saturday.
Series — ISU leads 40-36. ISU lost to Drake 74-71 in overtime on Feb. 2. Drake last won at Hulman Center in 2008.
Indiana State Sycamores (17-11, 9-7) — G Jake Odum (6-4, Jr., 14.3, 4.4 rpg, 4.7 apg), G Dawon Cummings (6-4, Jr., 6.3), F Manny Arop (6-6, Jr., 12.6, 5.3 rpg), F R.J. Mahurin (6-8, Jr., 10.3) and C Justin Gant (6-8, So., 7.6, 4.7 rpg) are possible starters. G-F Khristian Smith (6-6, Fr., 5.4), G Lucas Eitel (6-2, Jr., 4.4), G Devonte Brown (6-3, Fr., 3.6), F Jake Kitchell (6-10, So., 2.8), G Brandon Burnett (6-6, Fr., 0.7) and F-C Rhett Smith (6-7, Fr., 0 ppg) are key reserves. For Drake, F Daddy Ugbede (thumb) is out. F Jordan Clarke (knee) is questionable.
Coach — Greg Lansing (52-36, 3rd year at ISU).
Drake Bulldogs (13-15, 6-10) — G Chris Hines (6-1, Sr., 9.6), G Richard Carter (5-11, Jr., 9 ppg), F Joey King (6-9, Fr., 7.1), F Ben Simons (6-8, Sr., 14.6), F Jordan Clarke (6-8, Sr., 9.5, 8.7 rpg) and C Seth VanDeest (6-11, Jr., 9.5, 4.8 rpg) are possible starters. G Micah Mason (6-2, Fr., 5.4), G Gary Ricks Jr. (6-1, Jr., 3 ppg), F Jeremy Jeffers (6-6, So., 3.5) and G Kori Babineaux (6-4, Fr., 2 ppg) are key reserves.
Coach — Mark Phelps (72-80, 5th year at Drake).
Injuries — For ISU, C Mike Samuels (foot) is out.
Next — ISU plays at Evansville and Drake plays host to Southern Illinois on Saturday.