Indiana State saw a 16-point halftime lead quickly evaporate, as Belmont scored 63 second half points to come from behind and defeat the Sycamores 96-95 on Thursday night.
The Sycamores had a major collapse three days before they traveled to South Bend with a meeting against No. 21 Notre Dame. But like an experienced team, Indiana State bounced back to come away with a huge 83-70 upset victory over the Fighting Irish, justifying the Sycamore’s preseason hype entering the season.
Indiana State shot 11-of-20 from three as a team, hitting eight in the first half and connecting on all three attempts in the second half. The eight first half threes built the lead while the last triple — from Justin Gant — provided the dagger, putting the Sycamores up 73-60 with two minutes to play.
It appeared to be another long-second half for Indiana State when Notre Dame came out of the gate with a 15-4 run to take a 54-45 lead. Indiana State regrouped and responded with 10 unanswered points, eventually upping the lead to 15 points with six minutes to go in the game. From that point on, Notre Dame would cut the lead to single digits, but nothing closer than eight.
Past the midway point of the first half is when Indiana State began creating separation via the 3-ball. In less than a three-minute span, five different Sycamores connected on shots from behind the arc, which turned what was a six-point lead to a 28-14 ISU advantage, which helped the Sycamores take a 40-30 lead into the break.
Wichita State is the clear-cut favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference, but Indiana State is being pegged as the Shockers top competition. Sunday afternoon, Indiana State handed Notre Dame a rare home loss, taking an early first half lead, absorbing a second half shot the Irish gave them before ultimately pulling away midway through the second half. That gives you some idea of what they are capable of this season.
The Sycamores are led by senior Jake Odum, one of the best mid-major point guards. Odum didn’t connect on his first field goal until 13 minutes to go in the game. But he was able to do other things on the floor to give ISU a boost (seven boards, five assists, two steals to two turnovers). Gant and Manny Arop combined for 6-of-8 shooting from deep while Khristian Smith and Devonte Brown added production off the bench.
This a team that beat Wichita State on the road and knocked off Creighton last season during conference play. But ISU stumbled losing seven of its last nine games. Once again, this is a dangerous team, and they showed it Sunday afternoon. But can the Sycamores make this noise come late-February/early March?