Jake Odum put the Sycamores on his back and Khristian Smith got the big rebound and putback score with eight seconds remaining as Indiana State scored a thrilling 62-59 victory over Southern Illinois in the MVC Tournament Semifinals in front of 13,966 fans inside Scottrade Center.
Indiana State improved to 23-9 on the season with the win and advances to tomorrow’s MVC Tournament Championship Game against No. 2 nationally-ranked Wichita State. The game — which is televised nationally on CBS — will begin at 2 p.m (ET). It marks the second MVC Championship Game appearance for the Sycamores under fourth-year head coach Greg Lansing and the fifth in school history. Indiana State enters the game 3-1 in the tournament championship game all-time with titles in 1979, 2001 and 2011. Additionally, the Sycamores are 5-2 in MVC Tournament semifinals all-time and Lansing’s seven MVC Tournament victories are the most-ever by a Sycamore head coach.
Indiana State’s 23 victories this season is the most by a program since the Larry Bird led 1978-79 team recorded 33.
Odum paced the Sycamores with 20 points as he went 5-of-11 from the field and added 10 free throws with five rebounds and two assists. He now has 1,549 career points which is six points behind Eddie Bird for sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list. Additionally, Odum has scored 108 points in nine career MVC Tournament games and is the active career leader for the league.
He was joined in double figures scoring by Justin Gant with 13 points and Arop tallied 10. Arop paced the team with seven rebounds while Khristian Smith had six — none bigger than his offensive board and putback with eight seconds left to help secure the victory.
The Sycamores hit 21-of-48 shots from the field (43.8 percent) and limited the Salukis to 19-of-49 shooting (38.8 percent). For the second consecutive tournament contest, Indiana State dominated the paint — this time by a 34-18 margin.
Indiana State led 59-57 after Desmar Jackson hit a lay-up at the 3:13 mark. Odum answered with a free throw with 1:44 remaining to stretch the advantage out to 60-57. A pair of Jackson charity tosses made it 60-59 with 44 seconds left and the Sycamores called a timeout.
The Sycamores ran the clock down and Gant took an 18-foot jumper at the top of the key which just missed but there for the rebound and tip-in was Khristian Smith who’s field goal with eight seconds on the clock made it 62-59. Jackson missed a 3-pointer with one second left and sent Indiana State to the MVC Tournament Championship Game.
Southern Illinois led 30-29 at the half despite the Sycamores scoring four points in a row before the break. The run extended to 11 in a row as Jake Odum scored each of the first seven points for the Sycamores and ISU found itself ahead 36-30 with 17 remaining.
The Salukis threatened to get closer but went 0-for-7 at the free throw line at the charity stripe to open the half while a Devonte Brown lay-up staked the Sycamores to a 38-32 lead as the clock ticked under 15 minutes. Odum’s conventional 3-point play at the 13:53 mark stretched the advantage to 41-33. Gant hit an open lay-up after SIU got within five to take a 44-37 lead at the 12:03 mark.
Indiana State led 49-45 at the 8:12 mark when Odum drove the lane and was fouled where he hit a pair of charity tosses to stretch the cushion back out to six points. Odum then hit a rainbow shot in the paint for a 53-45 advantage with 7:28 remaining. After Anthony Beane scored, Brandon Burnett hit a jumper in the paint to give the Sycamores a 55-47 lead. Smithpeters countered with a trifecta and drew the Salukis to within 55-50 at the 5:49 mark.
The Sycamores led 57-50 on an Arop putback but Beane answered with a 3-pointer to cut the Indiana State advantage down to just four points with 4:12 remaining. A pair of Blake Verhines charity tosses got the Salukis within 57-55. Odum answered with two free throws of his own to restore a 59-55 lead.
The Sycamores came out on fire by scoring each of the game’s first eight points, including consecutive 3-pointers from Jake Kitchell and Manny Arop in the opening moments of the contest. Southern Illinois would not score until the 16:59 mark on a Tyler Smithpeters bucket and Indiana State led by six.
Indiana State’s lead would grow to 15-7 at the 13:09 mark on consecutive buckets by Devonte Brown and Demetrius Moore. SIU scored nine in a row over the next five minutes as the Sycamores were held scoreless until a pair of Justin Gant charity tosses pushed Indiana State ahead 17-16 with 7:42 remaining.
Trailing 24-19, Odum hit 1-of-2 free throws and Gant buried an open 3-pointer off the freed from Odum to get within a point at 24-23. Gant then added a lay-up at the 3:41 mark to answered a SIU score and trailed 26-25. Two Desmar Jackson charity tosses gave the Salukis a 30-25 lead with 1:45 remaining before Cummings hit a jumper and then Arop hit two free throws to give the Salukis a 30-29 lead into the break. Arop owned eight points and five rebounds to pace the Sycamores.
Anthony Beane scored 16 points to lead Southern Illinois.
The MVC Tournament Championship is up next for the Sycamores. It is Sunday, March 9 inside the Scottrade Center at 2:05 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live nationally on CBS.