The basketball team that underwent a major renovation after last season is playing well, contending for the Missouri Valley Conference title despite an injury issue.
And so is Wichita State.
The 15th-ranked Shockers play Tuesday against Indiana State, a team that proves the Shockers aren’t the only bunch capable of retooling without slipping. Maybe calling the Sycamores (13-7, 6-3 MVC) a title contender is a stretch, but it won’t be if they upset WSU (19-2, 8-1) at Koch Arena. Indiana State is in third place with four new starters and despite losing a transfer center to a broken foot last summer.
“They’re third place in the Valley, but they’ve beaten the No. 1 team in the SEC (Mississippi) and the ACC (Miami),” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “What does that tell you?”
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It tells you point guard Jake Odum is still around, still winning and still frustrating defenses with his quirky blend of passing and scoring. It tells you coach Greg Lansing deserves credit for adding new parts and improving his returners. It tells you the Sycamores continue to play good defense and let Odum run the offense.
He averages 14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Odum, a 6-foot-4 junior from Terre Haute, Ind., makes it all happen. He possesses superior vision and patience and a knack for finding holes in defenses other guards can’t. He also averages 7.7 free throws and his 154 attempts from the line lead the MVC lead the conference by 23 attempts.
“You’ve obviously got to guard Odum, and not let him do whatever he wants to do, dribbling the ball around, finding open shooters, getting into the lane, dropping it off,” Marshall said.
Odum rarely practiced last season because of injuries. While effective, he lost some of the zip to his game. He is healthy now, although Lansing keeps a close eye on his workload.
“I can see it,” Lansing said. “He’s a lot quicker. He’s got his bounce back.”
Indiana State lost four of its top five scorers from last season. Lansing used the new summer practice allowance and a trip to the Bahamas to start his rebuild. Forward Manny Arop, a transfer from Gonzaga, gives him an athletic scorer on the wing. He averages 13 points and came up big in Indiana State’s marquee non-conference wins — 27 points against Mississippi and 13 against Miami. Sophomore center Justin Gant, who played sparingly last season, stepped into the starting lineup and averages 8.4 points and 5.2 rebounds.
“Having that extra time benefited us greatly,” Lansing said. “We timed it perfectly.”
WSU moved up to No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25, a jump of five spots. It matches the team’s highest rank from last season. It ranks No. 14 in the USA Today coaches poll.
“They’re as talented and athletic as any Valley team I’ve seen in, I don’t know how long — maybe ever,” Lansing said. “They’re one of the top teams in the country.”
Thurman honored — Missouri State freshman Gavin Thurman, from Heights, earned MVC newcomer of the week honors. Thurman averaged 15 points and five rebounds in a loss to WSU and a win over Drake last week. He scored 21 points against the Shockers and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds against Drake.
Illinois State center Jackie Carmichael, from Manhattan, was named player of the week.
WSU’s Turner honored — WSU women’s player Chynna Turner earned MVC player of the week honors. She scored a career-high 22 points in a win at Southern Illinois and 11 points in a win at Evansville. WSU is 7-0 in the MVC.