Score: Indiana State 68, WSU 55
Key statistics: WSU shot a season-low 27.1 percent from the field and gave up a season-high 53.3 percent.
How the game turned: WSU trailed 54-50 with 5:45 to play, then plunged into a miserable offensive stretch. Cleanthony Early missed a three. Demetric Williams missed a runner off the side of the backboard. Still, WSU trailed by four points after a third straight Sycamores turnover. After Malcolm Armstead missed a three, Indiana State scored. WSU’s Carl Hall followed with a bad pass that Indiana State turned into another score for a 58-50 lead.
Records: WSU 19-3, 8-2 MVC; ISU 14-7, 7-3
The Shockers won games shooting 35.1 percent (VCU), 38 percent (Southern Miss and Creighton) and 37 percent (Missouri State), a list notable for the fact those are also three of the best teams faced. They weren’t going to pull that off all season, especially against other good teams. Other teams zoned the Shockers, which is the way to go. Nobody else did it as well as Indiana State. It has the size to protect the rim when WSU did get shots in the lane. It has the quickness and length to guard the perimeter. “We weren’t able to get the ball to Carl (Hall) that much, because they were double-teaming,” WSU guard Demetric Williams said. “They did a good job having a man behind him or having a man come double. They did a good job making us an outside team.” Did the Shockers shoot too many threes (28)? They made nine, which puts them at 32.1 percent, essentially their season rate. I thought WSU rushed a few, which is a credit to Indiana State’s defense. WSU wasn’t getting many good shots, so after a time any open look begins to look very inviting. As 27.1-percent shooting indicates, the offensive meltdown crossed all lines. Big men didn’t finish in the lane. The guards didn’t score and missed some chances – not many – to get the ball inside. WSU took 14 more shots than Indiana State, committed four fewer turnovers and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds. It is hard to lose when you do those things. The story of this game was Indiana State and how the Sycamores did what other teams haven’t been able to do. No other WSU opponent shot better than 47.4 percent. Role players came up big. The bench refused to wilt in pressure situations. They held the lead when guard Jake Odum sat. They built an 11-point halftime lead with Odum playing a minimal role. “When you come off the bench, you can’t come in passive,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “If you come in passive against these guys, they smell that blood in the water and it’s over.” Often, we see players who perform well at home fade in Koch Arena. The road didn’t bother the Sycamores. Indiana State put itself back in NCAA Tournament at-large consideration. With wins over Mississippi, Miami and WSU, the Sycamores own some impressive chips. But, they lost at Morehead State and Southern Illinois. They can’t afford any more bad losses. Their RPI jumped from No. 50 to No. 39 after the win. WSU is No. 25 and Creighton is No. 31. By comparison, it’s hard to find Shockers who played well. Cleanthony Early had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Fred VanVleet played well off the bench in 16 minutes, save a crucial turnover late in the first half. “It happens,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “I don’t like it. I’m sure (the players) don’t like it. It’s an opportunity for us to grow. Get up off the mat.” WSU lost by double-digits at home for the first time since a 70-56 loss to Stanford in the 2009 CBI. It lost by double-digits at home to an MVC team for the first time since a 74-62 loss to Southern Illinois in 2009. It lost by double-digits for the first time since a 70-60 loss to Alabama in Puerto Rico in 2011 and suffered its worst defeat since an 83-69 loss at San Diego State in 2010. The second half of the MVC season offers one tough game after another for WSU. It plays at Northern Iowa on Saturday. The Panthers lost their second straight road game on Tuesday, 54-51 at Evansville. On Saturday, they lost 59-58 at Indiana State on Odum’s free throws with less than a second remaining.
Next up: at Northern Iowa, 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2)