NORMAL — For the first time in 417 games, stretching all the way back to 1999, Illinois State’s basketball team didn’t make a 3-pointer Wednesday night.
Luckily for ISU, Indiana State’s Jake Odum didn’t sink a 3-pointer when it really mattered at Redbird Arena, either.
Odum’s 23-foot attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim, letting the Redbirds escape with a 60-58 victory over the Sycamores in a Missouri Valley Conference game before a crowd of 5,519.
“I had a good look at it. It was straight on line, boy,” said ISU coach Dan Muller. “That would have been a heartbreaker, but he missed it and our guys guarded well. Johnny (Hill) contested it, which was important.”
Hill paced the Redbirds (11-9, 2-6 MVC) with 18 points, while Jackie Carmichael added 16 points and nine rebounds. ISU went 0 of 13 outside the arc. The last game in which the Redbirds didn’t sink a 3-pointer came on Dec. 12, 1999 in an 82-43 loss to Creighton.
Carmichael missed the second of two free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining. Indiana State’s R.J. Mahurin grabbed the rebound and gave the ball to Odum, who quickly raced down the court and let it fly in front of the Sycamores’ bench.
“It was a crazy scramble. I thought Anthony (Cousin) was going to foul him,” said Hill. “We talked that if Jackie made it then we would foul him before they got to halfcourt. I was just screaming, ‘No, no, no.’ I ran and tried to contest it the best I could. He’s a great player and we got away with one.”
Carmichael banked in a 3-pointer last year to beat Evansville. That immediately went through his mind.
“Please don’t go in and please don’t bank it in. That was my main thought,” said Carmichael. “I was kicking myself for missing that free throw and putting us in that position.”
There were plenty of misses on both sides.
Indiana State (12-7, 5-3) went 0 of 6 at the free throw line in the first half and 7 of 14 overall. The Sycamores shot 38.3 percent from the field (23 of 60), while ISU sank 37.5 percent (21 of 56). The Redbirds were 18 of 30 at the line.
Hill said it was “an ugly win,” but the Redbirds gladly took it and now have two straight victories heading into Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. home game against Evansville.
“To be able to gut it out and be able to play a good team and get a win without a 3 is great,” said ISU coach Dan Muller. “We do not win if we don’t guard like we did. That is how we need to win most games.”
Forward Manny Arop paced the Sycamores with 13 points. Odum, the Sycamores’ leading scorer with a 14.2 average, was held to nine points (all in the second half) on 3-of-12 shooting.
It was a much improved defensive effort for the Redbirds than on Dec. 30 in the Valley opener at Terre Haute when Indiana State beat ISU, 77-75. That started a six-game Redbird losing streak.
“We had guys in the gaps harder. They’re so good at scoring inside the 3-point line,” said Muller. “They don’t make a lot of 3s. We were more conscious on giving the guy on the ball more help. We’ve changed our defense up from the last time we played. Our ball screen defense is better. He (Odum) missed some shots early he normally makes.”
Indiana State led 53-51 with 3:53 left before rebound baskets by Hill and John Wilkins started a 7-0 run that gave the Redbirds the lead for good. However, ISU went 3 of 8 at the line in the final 30 seconds to give the Sycamores a chance.
“Give Dan and Illinois State a lot of credit. It was an ugly kind of basketball game, two teams going at it fairly hard and not playing a very pretty game at all,” said Indiana State coach Greg Lansing. “I thought we did not have a very good first half at all. I did not do a good job getting the guys ready. We did not look like a good-coached team.”
The Redbirds used an 8-0 run, capped by a steal and dunk from Tyler Brown, to take a 20-13 lead midway through the first half.
ISU never trailed the rest of the half, but had only three more baskets until the break. However, the Redbirds’ defense kept them in the lead. Anthony Cousin snagged a long rebound and sank a falling 13-footer at the halftime buzzer to put the Redbirds ahead, 29-26.