Sycamores experience letdown after jumping into polls, lose at home to Illinois State

Feb. 13—A lackadaisical beginning put the Indiana State men's basketball squad in a 14-point hole.

On Tuesday night at Hulman Center, the Sycamores got back in the game. But Illinois State answered the bell for an 80-67 stunner in Missouri Valley Conference action.

"We played like an entitled, soft team today," Indiana State third-year coach Josh Schertz said.

It came one day after the Sycamores (22-4, 13-2) got into the AP Top 25, its first appearance in the AP Top 25 in 817 polls, according to

With 9:32 left, junior Isaiah Swope scored a layup on a give-and-go with sophomore Robbie Avila on the left side for Indiana State men's basketball's first lead of the game at 49-48.

That's when the Redbirds (12-14, 6-9) fired back to remain in control. Freshman guard Jonny Kinziger, who poured in a game-high 31 points, pulled up from the left wing to put the Redbirds back in front.

Then a triple from the left corner by Luke Kasubke put the Redbirds back up by five. The long-range shots came 31 seconds apart.

Later, with 7:02 to go, in the right corner, Swope dialed up a 3. He added another one 45 seconds later to cut it to one.

The Redbirds jabbed back as Kasubke beat the Trees down the floor to collect a pass for a layin after Swope missed a jumper on the opposite end.

The Redbirds pushed the edge to 60-55 on two foul shots by Kasubke with 5:06 left. They came after Conwell hit Kasubke after he released a corner 3.

"I'll start by crediting Illinois State," Schertz said. "There wasn't anything good I saw from my team tonight, in terms of the things I admire and respect in terms of competitiveness and effort, toughness. But I did see all that with Illinois State. I thought those guys really competed well. They made all the hustle and loose-ball plays. They got all the ball in the air, ball on the floor, all the big muscle stats they dominated us."

Indiana State sleep-walked through the first 7 1/2 minutes.

The Redbirds gave the Sycamores an early wake-up call in the form of a 22-8 advantage after Kinziger picked off a pass by Avila for a breakaway finish.

"Winning can mask slippage," Schertz said. "You are on a nine-game winning streak, you are getting ranked and you are getting all this publicity. If you are locking in the results, that slippage can go unnoticed. That slippage leads to nights like tonight where you get punched in the mouth, and you get beat by a team that is hungrier and tougher and that's playing at a much higher level."

The Sycamores didn't record their first field goal until three minutes of action had elapsed.

Avila jarred the ball loose from forward Myles Foster as he was rising up near the basket.

Junior Julian Larry had a take as he slashed down the right side of the lane for a layup on the other end.

A minute later, Larry found junior Jayson Kent angling toward the rim on a diagonal cut from the left side for another Indiana State bucket.

Kent left the game with 18:31 left in the closing half after taking a knock to the head, Schertz said after he was on the floor, but his status is unknown.

He was on the floor and that stopped the action briefly and he didn't return.

After digging a deficit of 14 points, Indiana State countered with three quick strikes around the cylinder from Larry, Avila and Swope, who scored 18 points.

"You could kind of see it, we were kind of trending in that direction," said Larry, who had a team-high 20 points. "We just haven't had that pop since we played Drake [on Feb. 3] here. You could kind of see it trending that way."

The Sycamores couldn't get any of their first 16 3s to fall. It wasn't until a right corner triple by Swope with 1:22 left in the first half that the Sycamores connected from long range. Swope's shot brought the crowd to their feet after eating into the deficit at 32-27.

It was the closest the game got since the initial five minutes.

With 16:34 left, Conwell hit a 3 to the left of the top of the key for Indiana State's second make on its 19th attempt.

A minute and 20 seconds later Conwell drilled another from dead center. The Sycamores' struggles shooting the ball continue. They shot 8 of 38 (21.1%) from long range and 36.4% from the field.

"It was just a disappointing effort from all of us on both sides of the court," Avila said. "Obviously shots weren't falling on offense but we work hard enough to not have that affect us defensively, so for that to happen here is pretty sad to see from all of us. We all have to go back to work to try to find that fire again to continue."

Indiana State will travel to Carbondale, Ill., to face Southern Illinois on Saturday. Illinois State will host Evansville on Sunday.