TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Indiana State Sycamores continued to show off one of the most balanced offensive approaches in the country with five players reaching double figures scoring in a
76-62 home court victory over Illinois State in front of 6,528 fans inside Hulman Center.
improved to 16-4 on the season and 7-1 in MVC play while the Redbirds fell to 11-9, 4-4 MVC. The Sycamores are off to their best overall start since the 1978-79 campaign and in league play are 7-1 for the first time since 1999-00 — which is the last time Indiana State won the MVC Regular Season Championship.
The Sycamores are the only team in the country to boast five double digit scorers who each have hit at least 33 percent of their 3-point shots. Against Illinois State, the Sycamores put five scorers in double digits and tied a season-best with 11 3-pointers and were a blazing 11-of-21 from long range (52.4 percent).
Manny Arop and Dawon Cummings led the way for the Sycamores with 14 points each (Cummings was 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from 3-point range). Khristian Smith came off the bench once again to score 12 while Jake Odum and Justin Gant tallied 10 points each. Arop set a season-best with eight rebounds while three different Sycamores had at least four assists (Odum with five, Cummings and Devonte Brown with four).
Indiana State also set a season-best eight blocked shots, paced by three from Justin Gant. The Sycamores had 19 assists on 24 made field goals in the contest.
The Sycamores improved to 49-4 under head coach Greg Lansing when holding teams to 63 points or less. Indiana State has now beaten the Redbirds in nine of the last 14 meetings and have won each of the last seven meetings inside Hulman Center. The Trees are a perfect 8-0 inside Hulman Center this season.
Cummings scored first in the contest as he slammed the ball home off the feed from Odum just 13 seconds in for a quick 2-0 lead. Indiana State held an 8-7 lead when they rattled off seven in a row, including a 3-pointer from Cummings and back-to-back scores from Demetrius Moore and Smith for a 15-7 lead with 14:47 on the clock.
Illinois State battled back to take a 25-24 lead at the 4:15 mark on a pair of free throws by John Jones. Smith drilled a 3-pointer for a quicjk 27-25 lead before the ‘Birds tied the game right back up on a jumper from Paris Lee. Eitel broke the tie to kick-off a 7-0 run which was capped with a pair of Arop free throws for a 34-27 lead with 2:53 remaining before the break.
The Redbirds closed within 34-29 but 3-pointers from Odum and Arop gave the Sycamores a 40-29 cushion heading into halftime.
Around halftime, the run became an 11-0 spurt as the Sycamores opened the half with a jumper from Gant and added a triple from Cummings for a 45-29 lead with 19:05 remaining. Illinois State countered with four in a row before Arop righted the ship with a 3-pointer for a 48-33 cushion with 18:42 remaining. After giving up one point to Redbirds, Cummings and Arop teamed up for consecutive 3-pointers as the Sycamores owned a 54-34 advantage with 16 minutes left.
From there, the lead teetered between 16 and 19 points for the balance of the second half and the Sycamores owned a 75-56 lead with 2:41 remaining after a dunk from TJ Bell. Illinois State scored six in a row to cut the advantage down to 75-62 before Brandon Burnett hit 1-of-2 free throws with 39 seconds to go for the 76-62 victory.
Illinois State put three scorers in double figures, paced by Bobby Hunter’s 13 points.