Kindred: Mix of naughty, nice in ISU men's game

2011-12-21T08:00:00Z 2011-12-22T01:20:42Z Kindred: Mix of naughty, nice in ISU men's gameBy Randy Kindred |

Santa Claus did not attend Tuesday’s game at Redbird Arena. Probably just as well. He likely would have been tossed, or at the minimum, T’d up.

It was that kind of night in Redbird land. Illinois State had its moments. So did visiting Arkansas-Little Rock. And a guy in a striped shirt made certain he had his.

He shall remain nameless. For a wild two-minute stretch to end the first half — and a bit beyond — he seemed bent on making the story of this nonconference game about him.

Why give him what he wants?

Still, you have to hand it to him. He racked up some impressive numbers in a span of 2:01 — calling a flagrant foul, four technical fouls, ejecting a head coach and tossing three fans on the way off the court at halftime.

Holiday season?

Christmas cheer?

Bah humbug.

A guy hired to maintain order did everything but. He let everyone in a crowd of 3,193 know who was in charge, undeterred by the reality none paid to see him.

To be fair, the flagrant foul likely was warranted, given the NCAA–mandated crackdown on any contact to the head, inadvertent or not. And, yes, ISU coach Tim Jankovich let emotion get the best of him moments later when a block-charge call went against ISU, wiping out a Jon Ekey basket.

Jankovich’s fuse lit quickly and he got the first technical. Before his assistant coaches could pull him away, he was hit with another. His night was over, leaving assistant Rob Judson to coach the rest of the way.

The muscle-flexing could have ended there. It should have.

Instead, ISU’s Nic Moore and Little Rock’s Chuck Guy were slapped with a double technical after doing little more than looking at each other following a whistle.

Was there trash talk?

If so, it was low-key and low-decibel. It took a good set of ears to hear it … rabbit or otherwise.

The muscle-flexing could have ended there. It should have.

Instead, the man in charge couldn’t help himself. He acknowledged the screams and jeers from a cluster of fans as he left the court and gave three the heave-ho.

Lost in it all was the fact ISU had played a terrific opening half, building an 18-point lead at one time, and still led 42-33 at the half.

A 13-0 Little Rock run early in the second half gave the visitors a 46-44 lead. A night that began so promisingly was on course to end in disaster.

Last year, it likely would have.

Instead, a team with no seniors that is more talented and athletic than a year ago showed it is mentally tougher as well.

That will serve the Redbirds well with the Missouri Valley Conference season tipping off Dec. 29 at home against Northern Iowa.

“This team and last year’s (12-19) team are nothing alike,” junior center Jackie Carmichael said. “This was adversity and we needed that going into conference. This is a perfect example of a road game. We came out and really just fought.”

In doing so, these Redbirds (8-3) are two-thirds of their way to last year’s win total heading into their brief Christmas hiatus. They found a way Tuesday night in a situation Judson accurately said, “They had never been in.”

Most of us had not.

It was a bizarre mix of naughty and nice five days before Christmas, but in the end “a great experience” for a young team, Judson said.

That’s the story of this game.

Randy Kindred is at The Kindred blog:

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