ST. LOUIS — Everything went into Feb. 5. Every piece of the community in Terre Haute, Ind., sprung into action that day for the Indiana State basketball team.
The students at the school. The people in the city. The players on the court, most of all. It was all-in.
Nothing mattered more than beating Wichita State that night. Nothing.
And then we lost and it just ripped our guts out, Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. Anybody that plays this game would say, I want to play them again in St. Louis, but be careful what you wish for.
Indiana States shot at redemption against the Shockers comes via a hard-fought, 62-59 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinals behind a gutsy performance from senior point guard Jake Odum, who scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half.
Their reward? One final shot at No. 2 WSU and its 33-0 record after a 68-48 loss to WSU at Koch Arena on Jan. 18 and a 65-58 loss in Terre Haute.
Ive wanted a piece of Wichita State since they got us at our place, Odum said. We feel like we competed with them (in Terre Haute) ... theyre a really good team. In my opinion, theyre the best team in the nation.
Our goal when we got here was to meet up with them in the championship and give it all weve got. Thats what were going to do tomorrow.
The Sycamores got all they could handle from Southern Illinois on Saturday as the Salukis rallied from a 57-50 deficit with 4:50 left to get within 60-59 after a pair of free throws by Desmar Jackson. Lansing had a set play on the ensuing possession for Odum to get the ball to center Justin Gant for a jumper, but Gants shot was off and Khristian Smith saved the day for the Sycamores with a tip-in with eight seconds left.
It was Smiths only basket.
I just had to wait for the right moment, Smith said, smiling. I got one, and that was the one that counted.
And Indiana State (23-9) doesnt need a scouting report. They know the Shockers as well as the Shockers know them.
Fred (VanVleet) is the head of the snake, hes the one that makes everything go, Odum said. And then theres Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker, who are also great players. They can beat you in so many ways.
Gant has had two games of banging in the post with the Shockers three-headed big man combination of Kadeem Coleby, Chadrack Lufile and Darius Carter.
Theyre great on defense and theyre physical, start to finish, Gant said. They come at you in waves and wear you down.
A third shot at WSU isnt all the Sycamores wanted, however. They want more than that.
We didnt come here to just make it to the championship game, Lansing said. We came here to win it. If we arent good enough and (WSU) goes into the NCAA Tournament undefeated, they have a great chance to win the whole thing. If we are good enough, were going to go there and do something, too.
S. ILLINOIS (14-19): Jackson 1-10 6-8 8, Smithpeters 4-8 3-3 13, Olaniyan 1-2 3-4 5, Beane 7-16 1-4 16, OBrien 1-2 1-2 3, Pendleton 4-9 2-6 10, Drinkard 0-0 0-0 0, Fillyaw 0-1 0-0 0, B. Verhines 1-1 2-2 4, D. Verhines 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-49 18-29 59.
INDIANA ST. (23-9): Kitchell 1-3 0-0 3, Arop 3-7 2-2 10, Gant 4-6 4-6 13, Cummings 3-8 0-0 6, Odum 5-11 10-15 20, Eitel 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 2-5 0-0 4, Moore 1-1 0-0 2, Burnett 1-2 0-0 2, Smith 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 21-48 16-23 62.
HalftimeS. Illinois 30-29. 3-Point GoalsS. Illinois 3-12 (Smithpeters 2-4, Beane 1-4, Pendleton 0-1, Fillyaw 0-1, Jackson 0-2), Indiana St. 4-15 (Arop 2-6, Kitchell 1-1, Gant 1-1, Burnett 0-1, Odum 0-1, Eitel 0-2, Cummings 0-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsS. Illinois 36 (Olaniyan 7), Indiana St. 31 (Arop 7). AssistsS. Illinois 7 (Beane, Jackson 2), Indiana St. 6 (Cummings, Odum 2). Total FoulsS. Illinois 17, Indiana St. 22. A13,966.