TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Hulman Center might be the least intimidating building for visiting teams in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The multicolored seats (yellow, blue, orange and gray) stick out as the place generally isn't more than half full with Indiana State's basketball team struggling in the past decade. The joint might have buzzed for Larry Bird in the late 1970s, but there hasn't been a whole lot of atmosphere there for a while.
Yet don't tell Illinois State this should be an easy place to win. Despite having teams which contended for the Valley title, the Hulman Center turned into the Redbirds' personal house of horrors the last three seasons.
"In the past I guess they've had our number at their building," said ISU senior guard Alex Rubin.
The Hulman Center is one of only two Valley venues where the Redbirds haven't won in Tim Jankovich's three-plus years as coach (the other being UNI's McLeod Center). ISU will try to correct that at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday when it faces the Sycamores.
Three years ago, the Redbirds came to the Hulman Center without Dom Johnson because of the flu. Two years ago, Osiris Eldridge and Lloyd Phillips played through sickness. Eldridge acted like he was ill last year when he didn't score a basket in a 72-65 defeat.
"We've had some amazing bad luck, but they're really good at home and have had good teams and are a really good team this year," said Jankovich.
Indiana State (6-7, 1-1 Valley) has won nine straight games at the Hulman Center, including four this season under first-year coach Greg Lansing. A victory Tuesday would give the Sycamores, who have losses to Purdue and Notre Dame, their longest homecourt streak since 1999-2001 (22 games).
The Redbirds (8-5, 0-2) felt like they took a step forward on the road Saturday. Thanks to 23 points from Anthony Cousin and 22 from Jackie Carmichael, ISU enjoyed its biggest offensive output since late November. But Missouri State, the league's No. 2 preseason pick, had too many weapons and handed the Redbirds an 82-71 defeat.
The 82 points were the most ISU has given up to a Valley opponent in Jankovich's tenure. The previous high was 81 in an overtime loss at Southern Illinois last year.
"We're playing hard, but we have to play harder, and we're playing with some toughness, but we have to play with more toughness," said Jankovich. "That's part of the maturation process. We have to accelerate it as fast as we can."
Rubin is ISU's only player with more than two years of Division I experience. He said his younger teammates learned a difficult lesson at Missouri State.
"It's tough to give up 82 points and win anywhere," he said. "We did some good things defensively, but not enough and at times they outfought us. It was kind of an eye opener to see how good some of these offensive teams are. We're really a good defensive team. We showed that when we held teams in the 30s (field goal percentage)."
The Redbirds weren't able to hold Indiana State's Dwayne Lathan during last year's Valley Tournament and were nearly bounced out in the quarterfinals.
Lathan scored a career-high 27 points before the Redbirds pulled out a 69-65 victory. That came against Eldridge, who might have been the Valley's best perimeter defender.
How ISU defends Lathan, a 6-foot-3 junior swingman who probably is the Valley's most underrated player, could determine Tuesday's outcome. Lathan averages 14.8 points, which ranks fourth best in the league.
"He is a great talent and great athlete. His shooting has come around from the end of last year to now," said Jankovich. "His athletic ability doubles because now you have to get up into him."
Illinois State vs. Indiana State
Time: 6:05 p.m.
Site: Hulman Center, Terre Haute, Ind.
Radio: WJBC (AM-1230, FM-93.7)
Records: Illinois State 8-5, 0-2 MVC; Indiana State 6-7, 1-1
Series history/last meeting: ISU leads, 57-46 (ISU won 69-65 on March 5, 2010)
About the Sycamores: Indiana State was picked to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference in a preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors ... Senior guard Jake Kelly has missed the last two games with a stress reaction in his left foot and isn't expected to play today. Kelly is the Sycamores' second-leading scorer with an 11.2 average. The Iowa transfer suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first Valley game last season ... Aaron Carter started in Kelly's place in the Valley opener against Bradley last week and responded by tying his career high with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting ... Indiana State leads the Valley in blocked shots with 5.6 per game. Myles Walker has rejected 18 shots.
Next: Friday vs. Wichita State, 7:05 p.m.
Prediction: Indiana State 72, Illinois State 66
(Scoring, rebounding averages)
F - John Wilkins, 6-9, So. (8.8, 5.3); Jon Ekey, 6-7, Fr. (4.5, 4.0); C - Jackie Carmichael, 6-9, So. (11.2, 4.5); G - Alex Rubin, 6-1, Sr. (4.8, 2.2); Anthony Cousin, 5-11, So. (6.4, 1.4).
F - Carl Richard, 6-4, Jr. (9.4, 7.6); C - Myles Walker, 6-8, Jr. (6.5, 5.2); G - Dwayne Lathan, 6-3, Jr. (14.8, 5.0); Jake Odum, 6-4, Fr. (7.0, 3.2); Aaron Carter, 6-4, Sr. (5.5, 2.3).