Indiana State Knocks Off Wichita State for Important Road Win

Manny Arop led Indiana State to its third top-50 win of the year - Stephen Dunn

Indiana State scored an important road win against Wichita State on Tuesday night. But will it be enough come March for the Sycamores to crash the dance?

If only things were so neat and tidy that you could walk away from tonight believing that Indiana State had earned that final signature win for its NCAA Tournament resume.

Wins over Mississippi and Miami were a start. Now add in a defense-fueled 68-55 win over Wichita State on the Shockers' home floor. It looks like things should add up for the Sycamores.

If only it were that simple.

You would need to forget about the Morehead State loss, or the Southern Illinois defeat. Both of those games will loom large as the Sycamores are sitting on the bubble come March. Are the three top 50 wins -- and really top 25 wins by the March -- going to be enough to counteract those two losses, and possibly another defeat down the road?

Hard to say. The loss total doesn't help things, even if the other five losses don't look so bad in the grand scheme of things. The Sycamores scheduled hard, and you can't fault them for losing to UCLA, or New Mexico, or San Diego State. Those are good losses, especially when most of them came by less than 10 points.

But for one night, Indiana State doesn't need to worry about that. The Sycamores dominated the defensive end Tuesday, turning the tables on Wichita State. This is what Virginia Commonwealth tried to do to the Shockers. Indiana State just did it one bit better.

They allowed just 0.8 points per possession, and kept the game in control for all 40 minutes. A run of forced turnovers and breakaway baskets in the final few minutes might have made the score more lopsided than the game as a whole. But this was a case of Indiana State stealing Wichita's playbook and executing it perfectly.

They didn't allow the patented Wichita State run to begin the game -- the blitz that has taken out teams like Creighton and Northern Iowa. They executed the push themselves twice, and both times forced Wichita State into the long uphill battle.

That was impressive, especially the final 10 minutes, when the Shockers were lost on the offensive end. Only a late Malcolm Armstead layup in the final minute prevented them from being shut out from the floor during the last quarter of the game.

Manny Arop did it again on the offensive end for Indiana State. He scored 17 points, on 7 of 11 shooting, and could have done more had he not gone cold at the free throw line in the second half. Jake Odum and Devonte Brown each had 10 points in the win.

Need more fun with numbers? The Sycamores didn't need 3-point shooting to earn this win either. Indiana State shot just 27 percent from behind the arc. Perhaps it was forcing Carl Hall into repeated foul trouble that helped, and taking advantage of the slower Ehimen Orukpe.

Cleanthony Early walked away with 15 points and 11 rebounds for Wichita State, including five offensive boards. But his 3-for-10 shooting performance made that 15 points a struggle, considering he had to get half of that at the free throw line.

So Indiana State will walk away with the win, and another notch in its belt. For one night, they don't need to worry about the resume talk, or computer numbers that have them outside the top 75. They can bask in the glow of an important defensive win, one that pulled them into the heart of the race in the Missouri Valley conference.

Tomorrow they can worry about everything else.

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