The ugly version of the Sycamores returned tonight, and a combination of zero balance on offense and poor field goal defense led to a road loss against the Bears.
Just when you thought Indiana State was about to make a run for the tournament, they reverted to their old ways.
The Sycamores were on a roll. They had won six of their last eight, including wins over previously ranked Creighton and Wichita State, and were looking to maintain momentum heading into a later schedule that featured an important rematch with the Shockers followed by a BracketBusters game against Iona. Everything was looking up.
Then Doctor Jekyll showed up tonight. The team that lost to Morehead State by eight, to Drake by three in overtime, to (an admittedly resurgent) Illinois State by two, and to Southern Illinois by five, fell to Missouri State by two tonight.
The close margin is deceptive - the Bears may have finished the game 3-for-12 from the field in the final stanza, but they also went 14-for-21 from the free throw line in that same span, so the shots Indiana State were making were more of a prolonging of the inevitable than any frenzied comeback.
A prolonged shooting drought doomed Indiana State, as a span of 13 minutes from late in the first half to early in the second saw them shoot 4-19 from the field, while Missouri State shot 10-19 over that same span, shifting the Sycamores from a 26-20 lead to a 47-37 deficit.
The lead would eventually get pushed to 14 for the Bears at one point before Jake Odum and Manny Arop began scoring again. Which was the other problem - like in several other recent losses, Odum and Arop carried the load, and no real help was provided.
The team outside of that duo shot 29% from the field, including a 2-for-15 showing from Khristian Smith, Dawon Cummings, and Devonte Brown. Is it good that R.J. Mahurin finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds? Absolutely - it's just that those totals put him third and second on the night, respectively.
ISU better clean up their act quick, as they are now 1-5 in conference road games heading into Saturday's contest at Bradley. They get the benefit of facing both Wichita and Iona at home, but they need to finish much stronger in order to catch a whiff of the NCAA tournament.