Something sparked in Terre Haute about a month ago. Indiana State had come off two straight losses that left them looking less than ordinary.
But then the Sycamores went on a run, and that run has seen just a single speed bump, a 62-55 loss to San Diego State in Hawaii. The road continued to be smooth, albeit a little slick and scary, Sunday with a 77-75 win over Illinois State, maybe the No. 3 team in the Missouri Valley.
Indiana State did a nice job of corralling Jackie Carmichael, who received some faint praise from ESPN's Andy Katz in his holiday roundup a week ago:
You can pencil in Illinois State's Jackie Carmichael onto some sort of All-American list by season's end. The Redbirds star scored 25 in a win at Dayton and 18 in a win over Austin Peay.
Maybe you should get out that eraser that we have been using on North Texas' Tony Mitchell. Carmichael's 13 points took a great deal of work to accomplish.
The senior was just 4-for-15 from the floor.
OK, it was just a single-game shooting performance, and truth be told, Carmichael's biggest accomplish might have come on the boards, pulling in six on the offensive end and 14 overall. That went with two blocks and two steals.
Rule out that pesky shooting performance, that is a nice day. OK, you can pencil him back into "some sort of All-American list" now. I nominate the scrapper list, at worst. We though Carmichael deserved a second-team mention at the beginning of the year. Nothing has changed that, especially given the performances of some of our higher rated players before the season.
Back to Indiana State, you know, the team that actually won this game.
Start with Jake Odum, who was super efficient in scoring his 17 points that went with his six assists and three steals. Add in a healthy portion of Justin Gant, who scored his second double-double of the season (the first coming against Mississippi in Hawaii), and then a drop of freshman Devonte Brown -- make your free throws, kid; you don't have to be a senior to be good at the line.
This was a great game for the Sycamores, another in which they received an above average performance from more than three players, seemingly a key to victory over the past month. They have had games such as against IUPUI when everyone was clicking. And they have had games when they squeak by, just three players excelling.
But that has been the trend lately. If three players can make everything work, the team will win.
At the beginning of the year, Indiana State was an afterthought in the Valley, but the last month -- and especially this win over the Redbirds -- could lead you to believe that the Sycamores might not be that far off the leaders in the league.
This is a forest fire you don't want to stop.