NORMAL -- The frustration was too much for Trey Blue to take.
The Illinois State sophomore guard questioned his team's heart and effort after the Redbirds blew an eight-point lead with 9:36 left Wednesday at Redbird Arena.
ISU was outscored 19-1 down the stretch as Indiana State went to a 2-3 zone and stole a 56-46 victory before a crowd of 4,039.
"I just don't feel like we had any life. Not to down talk my team and I don't know if I should really say this in the media, but I wouldn't want to watch that," said Blue. "I told my teammates ... I don't care what our record is. I don't care if we're losing or winning. We're in a position where we need to be fighting every single minute.
"I don't feel like we gave everything we had."
Blue said he was talking more about a woeful first half in which the Redbirds fell behind, 25-20. After the intermission, Blue scored all 10 of his points to help ISU take the lead.
ISU's third straight loss dropped its record to 11-14 overall and 3-11 in the Missouri Valley Conference heading into Saturday's 7:05 p.m. home game against league co-leader Missouri State.
The Redbirds missed their final nine shots and committed seven turnovers after going ahead, 45-37, on Tony Lewis' layup. Shifting to a zone for Indiana State (13-12, 8-6), which snapped a five-game losing streak, shouldn't have baffled the Redbirds, said ISU coach Tim Jankovich.
The Sycamores did it with success at the end of the first half in Terre Haute, Ind., last month against the Redbirds.
"We've been working two days on that exact thing," said Jankovich. "We had two of our best days of zone offense work that I've seen in a month. I was hoping they would zone. Little did I know we would score one point against it."
Lewis led ISU with 11 points and eight rebounds. The Redbird bench outscored the starters, 33-13.
"Coach can't hold our hands. We have to go out there and play," said Lewis. "It's a lack of confidence with some guys. They have to fight through that and come out and play."
Redshirt freshman guard Jake Odum paced the Sycamores with 13 points and eight rebounds. The Sycamores played without senior swingman Jake Kelly, who was diagnosed Monday with mononucleosis and is out indefinitely.
Indiana State shot 34.5 percent from the field (19 of 55), including 3-of-18 on 3-pointers. Those were more than acceptable numbers to Jankovich.
However, the Redbirds couldn't overcome their own 33.3 percent shooting (14 of 42) and 21 turnovers, one off their season high.
"Night to night it's very difficult to know who really will step up and have a positive offensive game," said Jankovich. "A lot of guys are doing a great job on the defensive end.
"It's just, hey, it's a game of putting the ball in the basket, and we're very challenged with that right now."
Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said it was almost a desperation move to abandon his man-to-man defense.
"I'm not a zone coach and don't like it at all," he said. "But we were not guarding them very good to start the second half . We switched to it and got them stagnant a little bit, and it saved the game for us."
The end of the game mimicked the end of the first half for ISU. The Redbirds went the final 7:54 before intermission without a basket. ISU also committed 13 first-half turnovers.
The Redbirds could have been down by double digits at the break. Instead, the Sycamores helped out by shooting 31.3 percent (10 of 32) despite having nine offensive rebounds.
REDBIRD REPORT CARD
FRONT COURT – C—: ISU failed to get much offense going in the paint despite size advantage. Redbirds did come back to win rebounding battle.
BACKCOURT – D: Outside of Trey Blue’s spurt to start second half, Redbird guards did nothing offensively. ISU did decent job on defense.
BENCH – B: Tony Lewis and Trey Blue were the Redbirds’ best two players in the game. ISU bench outscored starters, 33-13.
OVERALL – D+: This has to be the most disappointing loss of the season for Redbirds. ISU needs to rally quickly with Valley co-leader Missouri State coming to town Saturday.