ST. LOUIS — Indiana State fought long and hard Sunday as it tried to punch its ticket to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Sycamores, who had defeated Loyola (Chicago) and Southern Illinois the previous two days to reach the MVC Tournament championship game, faced the tallest of tasks against No. 2 Wichita State.
Indiana State (23-10, 12-6 MVC) trailed the undefeated Shockers by only two possessions during the latter part of the second half but could never get over the hump. The Sycamores ultimately fell, 83-69.
Following the loss, Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing and his players were emotional. Lansing commented on how hard his team had worked to reach Sunday’s stage. And the loss provides an extra sting as it keeps Indiana State’s senior class, led by All-MVC First Teamer Jake Odum, from reaching the Big Dance.
“When you put your guts into something and it means so much, to see the disappointment on the guys’ faces in our locker room, it’s tough,” Lansing said. “You want it so bad for them, and they deserve it, the Sycamores deserve it. They deserved a championship, and they deserved to play in the NCAA Tournament.”
With 23 victories and a second-place finish in the MVC, the Sycamores will be playing postseason basketball somewhere. The NCAA Tournament is now out of the question, but the NIT is a realistic possibility. And if not the NIT, the CBI and CIT should be locks.
Whichever opportunity presents itself, Lansing said his team will be ready to compete.
“We’re going to lick our wounds and roll out of here with our heads high,” Lansing said. “We competed awfully hard against three good teams.”
Indiana State’s NIT chances took a hit as the the Sycamores ended their regular season with three straight losses. Lansing and Odum said locking up the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament with three games left to play could have created a lesser sense of urgency.
“This team has never limped anywhere,” Lansing. “Never limped one time, never collapsed, never anything. This team has been a tremendous group of guys. They represented Indiana State as good as any team anywhere that I’ve ever been around, represent the community and our university.”