TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – In his last home game as coach of the Indiana State Sycamores, Ron Greene says he finally may have figured out how to win ball games: play only four guys at a time.
Forced to play the entire second half with only four players after eight Indiana State players were ejected, ISU outscored Wichita State 44-43 while undermanned. But the Sycamores still lost the game 84-69.
“That might be the new offense and defense of the future,” Greene said. “I wish I’d found the five-on-four offense earlier in the year. It might have helped us.”
Indiana State, 4-22, lost its 15th straight game Thursday night and is 0-13 in the Missouri Valley Conference. On Wednesday, Greene announced he was resigning at the end of the season.
“We actually were playing better with four than we did five,” Greene said. “We were just playing looser and hitting some big baskets. We haven’t been able to loosen up all year, but in this case I guess we had nothing to lose.”
The Sycamores played a man short after eight Indiana State players, including the entire bench, were ejected with 1 minute 46 seconds to play in the first half. Two ISU players then fouled out in the final 25 seconds of the game, leaving only two Sycamore players on floor as the game ended.
WSU’s John Cooper also was ejected for throwing a punch in a fight that began when ISU’s Darin Liles went after Sasha Radunovich after Radunovich rebounded a missed ISU shot. The players on the ISU bench were ejected after leaving the bench area to join the fight.
Guffrovich hit one of the two technical shots assessed and Jeff Lauritzen hit both of ISU’s technical shots to bring the score to 42-27. WSU led 46-31 at halftime.
ISU guards Lauritzen and Jimmie Holliday and forwards Townsend Harris and Ron Cheatham were the four players remaining for ISU.
But ISU didn’t always look as if they had four players on the court. The Sycamores pulled within 59-55 with 11:12 left in the game.
“It was one of the most bizarre second halves I’ve ever coached,” said WSU coach Eddie Fogler. “I’ve never coached five against four.
“I probably had them way too tight. I mean, what are you going to do? Shoot jumpers or try to get it inside and get one guy fouled out to get them down to three?
“They’ve got nothing to lose.… There’s no pressure on their shots and my guys are thinking, ‘We better make these, we’re five on four.’ You talk about psychological differences offensively.”
WSU finally started hitting from outside, with Radunovich and Paul Guffrovich hitting three-pointers to pull WSU back out to a 75-62 lead with 4:41 to play. Cheatham fouled out with 25 seconds to play and Harris fouled out with 11 seconds to play.
Dwight Praylow said the Shockers had to adjust to the second-half situation.
“It was just different, we didn’t know quite what to do,” Praylow said. “For playing four on five, they played pretty well. It was just a weird, weird game.”
WSU, now 17-9 overall and 9-4 in the Missouri Valley, was led by Radunovich’s 18 points and eight rebounds. ISU was led by Holliday, who scored a career-high 36 points, 25 in the second half.
ISU Athletic Director Brian Faison said he thought the Shockers, while still trying to win the game, were somewhat gracious in the second half.
“I think Coach Fogler is to be commended because I know what he did in the second half,” Faison said. “They could have pressed us or done a lot of things that would have let them get way, way ahead. I think he did everything he could to be fair and not take advantage of the situation.”
Greene agreed, saying, “I credit Coach Fogler, I think it was a class act on his part. There’s some things he could have done if it’d gotten much closer I think. I think he was just trying to finish the game and not make it a farce.”
But Fogler insisted the Shockers were showing no mercy.
’’No, no, no, no. No mercy in my show,” Fogler said. “I wanted to win a basketball game.”