TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The challenge Indiana State faces Wednesday night against Creighton comes down to simple math.
“We felt like we played pretty well against them over there for 30 minutes,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “We have to see if we can do it for 40 minutes here.”
A lot of teams have been able to hang with the No. 16 Bluejays for periods of time. Only three have managed to put 40 minutes together and come out on top when they've squared off against Creighton.
One of the Bluejays' 20 victories this season came Jan. 5 against the Sycamores in Omaha when Creighton used a 14-2 run over a span of 5½ minutes to break from a 51-51 tie into a 12-point lead. Indiana State managed to close within seven points before the Bluejays finished off a 79-66 win.
Creighton's decisive spurt in that game was similar to ones Lansing has watched the Bluejays spring on teams throughout the season.
“Creighton is Creighton, and they make shots as well as anyone in the country,” Lansing said. “I thought we were doing OK. We were hanging in there, tied at 51, and then they hit a couple of 3s and got a dunk.
“We went down and missed a couple of layups and had a couple of turnovers and missed a couple of free throws. You can't do that if you want to have a chance to be there at the end with them. What they did against us is no different than what Creighton has done all year.”
The Bluejays' ability to string together decisive scoring spurts has left opponents shaking their heads with amazement. It also leaves Creighton's players with a great deal of confidence.
“We don't get down on ourselves if things aren't going the way we want early,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “In a perfect world, we'd like to get off to a hot start, but we do have that ability to go on runs.”
Wednesday's 6:05 p.m. game at Hulman Center is the first of four difficult Missouri Valley road games the Bluejays face in the final month of the season. Indiana State has won four of the past six games the teams have played here and has lost just once this season at home.
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The Sycamores have averaged 5,600 at home this season but are hoping to pack their 10,500-seat arena with fans wearing black.
“We'll see a good crowd there but more important, we're going to see a very good basketball team,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I would expect a grind-it-out game. Coach Lansing does a great job, and any time you have Jake Odum at the controls, you're going to have a chance to win.”
Odum ranks among the Valley leaders in scoring, assists and steals.
“He is as good of a point guard as there is anywhere,” McDermott said.
Odum is the only starter back from a team that won 18 games last season but never really seemed to mesh. Much was expected from last season's team after Indiana State used a late-season surge to earn a trip to the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Lansing has mixed Odum with a number of guys who were role players last season, added a couple of transfers and brought in some freshmen to build a team that finds itself two games behind Creighton in the Valley standings.
Asked what he sees different in the Sycamores this season, Greg McDermott replied, “I think they enjoy each other better than last year's group did. There was something missing there last year. I'm not sure what it was.
“Jake's injury didn't allow him to play to his potential a year ago. Now, they have a healthy Jake Odum and he has guys around him that really believe in what Coach Lansing wants them to do. They embrace that system, and defensively they make it tough to get anything easy. Offensively, they don't beat themselves.”
The Sycamores' 14-8 record includes a high-profile win over Atlantic Coast Conference leader Miami as well victories over Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference and Wichita State of the Valley. Both schools are in second place heading into the regular season's stretch run.
The win over the Shockers came eight days ago and snapped their 19-game homecourt winning streak. The Sycamores then took a step back, dropping a 74-71 overtime decision at Drake on Saturday.
“We've been a little guilty after a win like Wichita to get some pats on the back and maybe not handle things as we should,” Lansing said. “You have to be able to handle success, and for the most part we have.
“We didn't play all that poorly in the loss at Drake, but we had plenty of opportunities to win that game. We allowed them to shoot 49 percent, and we can't do that if we want to win.”
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