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Polyfro Primer: Indiana State

Not all records are created equal.

Indiana State is tied for second in the MVC with a 5-1 record. The combined record of their six opponents so far? A blistering 7-29 — and they’ve yet to play either Missouri State or Wichita State (or Creighton for that matter). You can see how people aren’t quite ready to buy into the “Indiana State is a contender” storyline just yet. Still, as we start our scouting report on them, lets look at those six conference games and see if we can determine if that record is merely a mirage, or if there’s something to this team.

In their MVC opener against Bradley, the Sycamores had four players score in double figures in a 80-66 win, despite playing without their second leading scorer in Jake Kelly. Guard Aaron Carter led the team with 19 points, making 7-12 from the floor and 3-7 from behind the arc. Guard Dwayne Lathan had 18 points, going 9-12 from the free throw line as time after time he dribble penetrated into the paint and drew fouls. All five starters had at least four rebounds, with Lathan, Carter and third guard Jake Odum leading the way with five a piece. That kind of spread-out team rebounding is tough to play against, although Bradley did outrebound them 39-36. Off the bench, Steve McWhorter and RJ Mahurin contributed ten points a piece.

In their second conference game, the Sycamores raced out to a 17-point lead in Evansville, but a second-half surge by the Aces made them comeback winners, 64-59. Jake Odum paced the Sycamores with a career-high 20 points, hitting 6-of-14 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers. Odum was 6-of-8 from the free throw line while adding five rebounds, three assists and five blocked shots. He was the only player to score in double figures; Dwayne Lathan was the next highest, with eight points but went 2-7 from the floor and a ghastly 3-8 from the line, and suffered a concussion late in the game. They were outrebounded 37-36, and allowed Evansville forward Kenneth Harris to snag 13 boards to go along with his 18 points.

Game Three saw the Sycamores beat Illinois State 72-57 at home, and once again had four players score in double figures — this time despite playing without their top TWO scorers. Dwayne Lathan missed the game after suffering a concussion in the Evansville game, and Jake Kelly’s foot injury once again kept him out. Senior Aaron Carter paced the team with 14 points while freshman guard Jake Odum reached double figures for the second consecutive game as he scored 13. Off the bench, junior Jordan Printy was a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range in scoring 11 while freshman RJ Mahurin scored 10. As a team, the Sycamores hit 23-of-49 shots from the field (46.9%) and fell one triple shy of a season-best as they connected on 11 shots from 3-point range. ISU owned a 31-27 advantage on the boards and posted a 15/8 assist to turnover ratio. Perhaps most impressively, considering their bench was short due to injury, ISU received 26 of their 72 points off the bench.

Against Northern Iowa, they blew out the Panthers 70-45 despite once again having two starters — Jake Kelly and Dwayne Lathan — unable to play due to injury. The Sycamores started out shooting 6-7 from the floor and opened on an 18-2 run with the Panthers only points coming off free throws. UNI’s first field goal did not come until the 10:39 mark of the half. Once again (this is becoming like a broken record) four Sycamores reached double figures, led by guard Steve McWhorter who had 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jake Odum had 10 points on 4-7 shooting, while center Myles Walker contributed 10 points on 5-8 shooting. Jordan Printy had 11 points off the bench, making 3-4 from behind the arc. The Sycamores outrebounded UNI 35-30, and had nearly twice as many assists (19) as turnovers (11).

In Des Moines against Drake, they once again played without both Lathan and Kelly, but once again had three players in double figures. Forward Carl Richard led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds, making 7-13 from the field in 37 minutes. Aaron Carter was 2-6 from behind the arc en route to 11 points, and Isiah Martin had 10 points off the bench including 6-8 from the charity stripe. They outrebounded the Bulldogs 34-25, but they had twice as many turnovers (18) as assists (9) as their guards struggled to keep control of the ball — Carter had five turnovers by himself.

And in the rematch with Bradley in Peoria, the Sycamores finally got both of their injured starters back but it was forward Carl Richard, coming off a solid line in the Drake game, again leading the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Richard was 7-of-11 from the field, including a 3-of-5 mark from 3-point range. Joining Richard in double figures scoring was senior Aaron Carter who hit 8-of-9 free throws to score 14 points. They outrebounded Bradley 36-31.

So looking at those six games, what do you notice? They played three of them without their two best players, for one, and won them all. Their scoring attack is spread out, as the only player to lead them in scoring more than once was Carl Richard. They frequently have three or four players score in double figures, they outrebounded all but one of the teams, and they do a good job of finding open shooters as their high assist totals indicate. That’s all good stuff. At 5-1, they’re playing with confidence — and they’re just now getting two starters back from injury, two players who happen to be their best players in Dwayne Lathan and Jake Kelly. Their next two games, against Creighton, Missouri State, and Wichita State, should show whether they’re truly for real, but I wouldn’t be too hasty in writing them off. Their scoring is too balanced, their rebounding is too solid, and their defense is good enough to keep them in most games.

Its a pivotal game. An Indiana State win gives them a leg up on Creighton for third place, and with the Bears visiting Terre Haute it would set up a midweek showdown that could (gasp!) catapult the trees into the discussion for a league title when they visit Wichita three days later. A Creighton win gets them back on track heading into a key stretch of games against the middle of the league. The Jays will need to play well to win this one, unlike in past years when the Sycamores were a bit of a pushover. Heck, playing well still may not be enough — the Sycamores are undefeated at home this year, and are starting to draw bigger crowds as they continue to win. It will need to be a full-40 minute effort on both ends of the floor for the Jays; a long scoring drought like they suffered through in both the Wichita State and Missouri State games will spell their doom here.

About the Sycamores: Indiana State is looking to move to 6-1 in MVC play for the first time since the 1999-00 campaign, which saw the Sycamores earn their first regular season MVC Championship since the Dream Season of 1978-79 with Larry Bird … Indiana State is 7-1 on the season when Jake Odum plays at least 31 minutes and are 5-1 when Carl Richard records double digit rebounds … The Sycamores have knocked down more 3-pointers than their opponents in each of the last nine games … The Indiana State defense has been strong this season, holding opponents to just 40.0% shooting which is the best field goal percentage defense mark in the Missouri Valley … In league play, the Sycamores have been even better, allowing just 37.1% from the field, which is also tops in the conference … Indiana State junior forward Carl Richard has posted a double-double three times this season, including in each of the last two contests – both on the road in Valley play … The Indiana State basketball team has been extremely efficient on the boards through 16 contests this season as they are out-rebounding their opponents by a 35.7 to 32.1 margin. ISU has pulled down more rebounds in 12-of-17 contests this season and has been at least +10 in the rebounding category in four separate contests … Junior Carl Richard owns an 7.6 rpg average, which is the second-best mark in the MVC so far this season just behind Southern Illinois’ Mamadou Seck … Redshirt freshman Jake Odum is averaging 7.2 points per game, is connecting on 51.9 percent of his shots from the field, leads the team with 61 assists and 32 steals, his 3.6 assists per game average is fourth in the MVC and is the best of any newcomer in the league so far this season while his 2.0 assist to turnover ratio is second in the league and is also the best mark of any Valley newcomer … Odum’s 1.9 steals per game average is ranked first in the Missouri Valley Conference, and in league games only, Odum’s 5.2 assists and 3.0 steals per game are tops in the league.

One Big Paragraph with Lots O’Dots™: Creighton already owns road wins at Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Evansville, matching its three MVC road victories total from a season ago and marking the first time that Creighton has started 3-0 on the MVC road since 2002-03, when Steve Merfeld’s Evansville squad snapped that streak … They haven’t started 4-0 on the MVC road since its 1942-43 team finished 5-0 in league road tilts … Kenny Lawson Jr. is tied with Kyle Korver for 14th in Creighton history with 664 career rebounds, is three shy of passing David Wesely for 13th place, and could move all the way up to 10th place with 14 more rebounds … Freshman Doug McDermott has 123 rebounds through 18 games this year, more than double the 58 caroms Lawson had through his first 18 career games … McDermott has grabbed eight or more rebounds in each of the last five games, the first Creighton freshman to do so since Bob Harstad from Jan. 20-Feb. 1, 1988 … Greg McDermott owns a 126-34 record at the Division I level when his teams own a halftime lead, but are just 31-93 when trailing at intermission. In the last four games, the team trailing at half has come back to win the game … Taylor Stormberg scored his first points as a Bluejay when his two free throws with 1:18 left closed the scoring on Wednesday. Incredibly for a hometown kid who attended a high school with as much athletic success as Creighton Prep, Stormberg’s points marked the first by a former Junior Jay since Mark Johnson scored one point in a 98-77 win over West Texas State on Jan. 21, 1984.

The Last Time They Played: Creighton dished 21 assists on 25 baskets and Kenny Lawson Jr. had 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Bluejays defeated visiting Indiana State, 65-52 on February 9, 2010. Lawson came out with a purpose early in the second half, scoring at will against an undermanned Indiana State team that suited up just eight players and was also hampered by foul trouble. He had two dunks in traffic and the Jays got three-pointers by Ethan Wragge and Darryl Ashford to go up 43-28. The lead eventually reached 52-32 with 10:24 left on a trey by Ethan Wragge.

The Series: Creighton owns a 49-23 record all-time against Indiana State and has won 20 of the last 25 games in the series. Meanwhile, the Bluejays lead the series 17-15 in 32 previous Terre Haute meetings, and are 6-4 there since a 2001 meeting when Creighton snapped ISU’s 22-game home winning streak.

Sixteen of the last 34 meetings have been decided by six points or less, and the teams have played at least one game decided by eight points or less in 16 of the previous 17 seasons. Greg McDermott is 8-3 in his career against Indiana State, including a 4-1 mark in Terre Haute. Three of those five games against the Sycamores at Hulman Center were decided by one point. However, McDermott has never faced off against Greg Lansing.

Gratuitous Linkage: As a graphic designer, nothing drives me batty quicker than a copywriter who insists on using two spaces after a period. So you can imagine my delight when Slate’s Farhad Manjoo published a scathing rebuke of the outdated style this week. As he says, according to pretty much every style guide out there, its “totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.”

Many times, after doing a search-and-replace to quickly remove the extra space in Adobe InDesign, I’ve had to explain why I did so to a copywriter. They never fail to be adamant that they are right and I am wrong. The moment when I drop a knowledge bomb on them by showing them AP Style, MLA Style and the Chicago Manual of Style all note it is proper to use just one space…well, its pretty rad.

Out of Context Simpsons quote: “I’m a Spalding Gray in a Rick Dees world.” -Homer Simpson

This Date in Creighton Hoops History: On January 16, 1992, Rick Johnson’s first Jays team went into Terre Hate and were massacred, 77-49.

Completely Random, Totally Rad Music Video of the Day: Behold the majesty of late-70s video production! The glorious cheesiness of Dennis DeYoung’s hair! The gratutitous segues to a bar scene with a Loni Anderson look-alike!

The Bottom Line: In a tough battle, the Jays squeak out a win. Gregory Echenique is making 71% of his shots from the field in MVC play, far and away the highest percentage, and he will dominate the paint. Indiana State is going to be in the top half of the league, as their blowout win over UNI showed, but I just don’t see them matching up well with Creighton’s size inside.

Creighton 64, Indiana State 60

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About Tom Nemitz

Tom is the creative production manager at an Omaha advertising agency, and holds a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Creighton University. In his spare time, he covers Creighton sports for WBR, which he co-founded with four others in 2009.

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