A vastly improved defensive effort enables Indiana State to upset Notre Dame

Jeff Eisenberg

In its previous game at Belmont on Thursday night, Indiana State lost by one largely because it surrendered 63 second-half points.

It took Notre Dame more than 38 minutes to match that point total three days later.

Indiana State held the typically efficient Fighting Irish to 36.9 percent shooting from the floor and 26.9 percent shooting from behind the arc to emerge with an 83-70 victory over a Notre Dame team that rarely loses on its home court. Entering Sunday, the 21st-ranked Fighting Irish were 119-9 at home over the past seven seasons and had only lost once in their previous 71 non-conference home games.

Indiana State's surprising victory reaffirms the Sycamores (2-1) as a potential NCAA tournament threat and the top challenger to Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference. Four starters and a slew of key bench players return from an Indiana State team that was on track to challenge for an NCAA bid in mid-February before dropping seven of nine to end the season.

It appeared unlikely Indiana State would topple the Irish when Notre Dame stormed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to take a 45-44 lead five minutes into the second half on an Austin Burgett three-point play. Instead that marked the only time second-half deficit for Sycamores, who reeled off 10 straight points and never allowed Notre Dame closer than eight during the final 10 minutes.

What's especially impressive about Indiana State's victory is that it didn't require a huge scoring day from Jake Odum to achieve. The all-conference senior guard didn't score his first field goal until a steal and layup with 13:20 to go in the second half and finished with 10 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds.

Improved defense and a barrage of 3-pointers helped make up for the modest scoring day from Odum, who averaged 20 points in Indiana State's first two games and averaged 10.5 points per game at the foul line alone. The Sycamores drained 11 of 20 3-pointers, including three apiece from center Justin Gant and forward Manny Arop.

Notre Dame had outclassed Stetson and Miami (Ohio) in its opening two victories of the season, but the Irish dropped a game after a 2-0 start for the second consecutive season. A year ago, the Irish rebounded from an early neutral-court loss to Saint Joseph's by reeling off 14 straight wins.