TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Things went amiss in a hurry for Illinois State's basketball team Thursday night at Indiana State's Hulman Center.
The Redbirds, who trailed most of the game but never by more than eight points, fought back to force overtime in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams.
That's when things turned ugly as Indiana State's Gabe Moore single-handily took over the contest early in the extra period to give the undefeated Sycamores their eighth straight victory with a 69-59 decision before 5,072 people.
Moore scored 11 of his 18 points in overtime, including the Sycamores' first six in a seven-second span. Moore was fouled on a 3-point field goal attempt (which he missed) 13 seconds into the extra period and made all three free tosses.
He then immediately took the ball away from Illinois State's Khalif Ford in the backcourt, scored a rebound basket and was fouled on the play. Again, he made the charity toss and suddenly Indiana State had a 56-50 lead 20 seconds into overtime.
"When we got the second chance to keep the game going at the end of the second half, we stepped up and were able to turn up the pressure on them," said Moore. "Coach (Royce Waltman) told us to dig down deep and light a fire and we did."
Illinois State could never recover as the Sycamores then went on a 7-2 run to extend the lead to 63-52 with 1:53 to go. Indiana State's lead grew to 15 as the Sycamores handed Illinois State its third straight loss and dropped its record to 5-4.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed in the loss," said Illinois State coach Porter Moser. "We put ourselves in a position to win it and didn't. We had a total meltdown in overtime. It's experience. It's leadership. Hopefully, we'll learn from it and be a little more comfortable in overtime next time.
"We started the overtime fouling a 3-point shooter, which is a major taboo move. You don't foul a jump shooter. Then we had a soft inbounds play by two young guys. I didn't think we had any soft turnovers in the game until overtime. Then all of a sudden we had four turnovers that were soft."
Illinois State cut an eight-point deficit to two points on two occasions late in the second half before Greg Dilligard's 15-foot jumper from the left baseline knotted the score at 49 with 2:47 remaining.
Thirty seconds later, Nedu Onyeuku gave Illinois State a 50-49 lead by making the second of two free throws. The teams traded missed shots before Dilligard blocked a Moore shot and grabbed the rebound with 59 seconds left in regulation.
Onyeuku missed a shot from the top of the key with 27 seconds to go and Dilligard was guilty of a foul going for the rebound. Trent Wurtz made his first free throw to tie the game at 50, but missed his second attempt.
The Redbirds had the ball for the final shot in regulation. Neil Plank drove the lane and tried to shovel a pass to Dilligard, who was flashing to the basket, but the ball was deflected out of bounds with 3.2 seconds left
Both teams took timeouts before Brandon Holtz inbounded the ball to Plank, who passed up a wide-open 3-point shot just to the left of the top of the key with 2.3 seconds to go. Instead, he tried to drive the lane and was never able to get a shot off.
"I think I was so wide open that it kinda shocked me," said Plank. "I probably should have pulled up and taken the shot. You wish you could do it over again, but you can't."
Dilligard scored a game-high and career-high 22 points, while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds for the second double-double of his career. He was the only Illinois State player in double figures scoring. The Redbirds shot 41.4 percent from the field.
Indiana State had four players score in double figures, despite being held to 36 percent shooting. David Moss led the Sycamores with 21, while Moore had 18, Jay Tunnell 15 and Wurtz 10. Moore also had 10 rebounds from his guard position.
The Sycamores were 33 of 43 from the free throw line. Illinois State was 8 of 17.
"They guard well and neither team could get a run," said Waltman, whose team is off to its best start since the 1978-79 squad won its first 33 before losing in the NCAA finals. "Two baskets in a row was a big celebration.
"It was good to see Gabe be assertive in the overtime. Because of his hustle and the foul that he drew on the 3-pointer, we were able to jump right out to a 6-0 advantage. I don't know if this was our best effort, but when you get into conference play winning is what pretty much counts and we were able to pull it out."
Illinois State returns to action New Year's Eve with a 2:05 p.m. Valley game at home against Creighton.