TERRE HAUTE —
If you’ve seen the movie “The Road Warrior”, you know the climax of the film is when Mel Gibson’s character drives a tanker truck down a desolate highway in a future wasteland.
He’s relentlessly chased by thugs who will stop at nothing to steal the valuable fuel on board.
Gibson, his truck and his crew, are on the verge of crashing-and-burning at any moment, but his destiny is ultimately achieved.
The Indiana State men’s basketball team has a lot in common with The Road Warrior.
The Sycamores have been battered, but somehow, some way, they’re still moving in the right direction. ISU still controls its destiny in the Missouri Valley Conference title chase.
ISU no doubt hopes it won’t be run off the road as it plays at Bradley at 2 p.m. today.
The Sycamores are a game behind first-place Wichita State and are tied for second with Creighton. However, ISU controls the tiebreaker in any two-way deadlock with the Shockers or Bluejays. ISU plays host to Wichita State next Tuesday, so the road to the conference lead is still open for them.
But only if the Sycamores beat the Braves today at Carver Arena, something ISU has done just once in the 2000s.
“We’re hanging in there and we’re still playing for something. Tomorrow’s game is absolutely vital for us,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said.
ISU (16-9, 9-5) has fallen on previous occasions where it had the chance to get positive momentum. Last Tuesday’s 67-65 loss at Missouri State cost the Sycamores their first place spot. ISU has also had losses at Southern Illinois and Drake that have held them back.
Lansing was asked what demeanor he’s seen out of the Sycamores in the wake of losses in which the team expected to win.
“They all want to win, they’re all disappointed, but as a staff sometimes, you want to win more than some of the guys. You need a room full of guys who are disgusted and can’t stand losing and can’t take it,” Lansing said.
“Where we haven’t been as well as we need to is with the mistakes we make that cost us baskets or cost us games, we haven’t corrected those as quickly and as efficiently as we need to. These guys are trying hard, but they need to learn from mistakes a little better than what we have this year,” he added.
Lansing said that movement among ISU’s post players is something that needs to directly improve from the Missouri State game. ISU also wants to get the ball in Manny Arop’s hands more often.
“We have to get Manny the ball. He needs some more shots. He’s our best scorer and he hasn’t been getting many shots. We have to get him going early,” ISU point guard Jake Odum said.
Bradley (14-12, 6-8) is ranked fifth in the nation in steals at 14.7 per game. It’s best thief is swingman Dyricus Simms-Edwards, who ranks sixth in the nation at 2.8 steals.
But Simms-Edwards might miss the game due to a back injury suffered in the Braves’ 79-59 loss at Illinois State on Wednesday. He has not practiced since. According to the Peoria (Ill.) Journal-Star, the senior is questionable-to-doubtful.
If Simms-Edwards, who is also Bradley’s leading scorer at 12.5 points per game, can’t go, it’s a major blow for the Braves.
Of course, the Sycamores can’t let their guard down. They’ve been punished for that too many times already.
“We might have looked ahead a few times this season and it bit us. Our focus is strictly on Bradley,” Odum said.