TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Before a packed crowd in a sea of blue at the Hulman Center on Wednesday night, the Indiana State Sycamores battled to a brave win over previously undefeated preseason favorite Missouri Valley Conference Drake, defeating the Bulldogs 75-73 in their opener at the Valley .
Indiana State (7-1, 1-0 MVC) led Drake (6-1, 0-1 MVC) 31-15 in the game, but after a 14-point lead at 8-40 in the first half, the Sycamores found down at five with 3:57 to go in the second. Leading scorer Robbie Avila sparked a late 9-0 run for the Sycamores that stretched 2:38 to put the ISU back to a four-point lead 73-69 with 15 seconds to go, and Cameron Henry hit four clutch free throws in those final 15 seconds to help the Sycamores hold off a late Bulldogs push.
Avila finished the night with 16 points on a 5-of-7 shot from the field, along with eight rebounds, three assists and a team-high steal. Henry was 10 of 12 from the charity stripe in the game and finished the game with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Jayson Kent made his first start of the season and scored the first eight straight points for the Sycamores before capping his night with two game-defining free throws in the final 1:35 to put him in double figures. He also pulled down a career-high seven boards.
Courvoisier McCauley also scored in double digits with 12 points from the bench. Kailex Stephens was 2-of-2 from the field with five rebounds and two steals.
After giving up the first score of the game, Kent responded with three straight buckets, including two from deep, to give the Sycamores an 8-3 lead at 17:33. ISU then went on a 13-2 run over 4:13 to increase the lead to 21-9 with 10:59 to take first place. McCauley swiped a pass and took it outright for a layup, and then Indiana State’s lead hit a game-high 14-point on a pair Trenton Gibson Free throws at 8:40 a.m.
Drake would cut the lead to 35-27 but Stephens drilled a few late buckets to send the Sycamores into the half-time break with a 42-35 advantage.
The Sycamores opened the second half with a Henry slam from a Gibson steal, but Drake later reduced their lead to five points at 47-42 and 16:09 to go. The Bulldogs had chances to take the lead on consecutive shot fouls but opted to tie things at 48-48 with 13:43 left.
However, Drake took his first lead since the game’s opening bucket after an ISU turnover at 7:15 to put it at 62-61 and then hit back-to-back baskets with a defensive rebound and another Sycamore turnover to secure his lead expand to 67-63 with 4:28 to go.
Avila came with a tremendous defensive stop followed by a three to reduce the ISU deficit by 2:40 to 69:67, sparking that late 9-0 run to help the Sycamores secure the win.
In the numbers
- Three-pointers were a crucial factor for the Sycamores in the game, as the ISU shot 22 of 54 (40.7%) from the field while Drake shot 28 of 62 (45.2%), but the ISU connected on 11-3 -Pointers compared to Drake’s four.
- Drake also outclassed the ISU in colour, 40-22.
- The Sycamores were 20 of 24 from the charity strip while Drake was 13 of 19.
- By keeping Drake’s leading scorer Tucker DeVries to five points in the first half and 15 in the game, ISU starter Roman Penn allowed him to hit a game-high 32 points. With that, Bank of Sycamore surpassed Bank of Bulldog by 25-1.
- The Sycamores passed the Bulldogs 38-34 and made seven second chance points compared to Drake’s two.
- The ISU committed 18 turnovers while Drake had only 12, but the ISU scored 25 points short of those Drake miscues.
Messages & Notes
- At 7-1, Indiana State got off to its best start to the season since 2005-06, when the team started 8-0. For the second straight season, the Sycamores started 5-0 at home.
- With the win, the Sycamores improve to 21-25 all-time in Missouri Valley Conference openers and 1-1 in Valley openers under the head coach Josh Schertz.
- Wednesday marks the ISU’s first-ever victory over Drake in a Valley opening game after they entered the game 5-0 against the Bulldogs in the conference openings.
- Robbie Avilas 26 points tied his career-high in his last game against Trinity.
- Cooper Neese left the pitch with an injury at 3:18 of the first half and did not return.
The Sycamores will embark on a four-game road stint that includes trips to Miami, Ohio, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and Duquesne. The ISU meets Miami, Ohio on Saturday, December 3 at 1 p.m
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