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November 17, 2013

Preview: Indiana State @ Notre Dame

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Head coach

Greg Lansing (4th year at Indiana State) - Lansing, 45, served as an assistant coach at South Dakota, his alma mater, Indiana State, Iowa and then back to Indiana State, where he was named head coach in 2010-11. He’s fashioned 20-14, 18-15 and 18-15 marks in his first three seasons as a head coach.

You should know

Athlon Sports projected Indiana State to finish second in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference after the Sycamores finished fifth behind Creighton (now a member of the Big East), Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Evansville last season…Indiana State opened the 2013-14 season with an 82-73 home victory over Ball State on Nov. 9. The Sycamores converted 28-of-50 field goals (.560), 9-of-16 three-pointers (.563) and 17-of-20 free throws (.850). Senior guard Dawon Cummings, who converted just .291 of his three-point attempts a year ago, made 6-of-8 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 21 points. Jake Odum (17 points, 10-of-11 from the line), Manny Arop (14 points) and Justin Gant (11 points) also were in double figures. Six-foot-six sophomore Khristian Smith came off the bench to snag six rebounds and hand out three assists, although he did turn the ball over four times. Ball State shot .532 from the field, including 7-of-15 from three-point range…Smith came back five days later and scored 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting in the Sycamores’ 96-95 loss at Belmont. Indiana State held a 49-33 halftime advantage before surrendering 63 second-half points to the Bruins, who shot .596 from the field. Odum tossed in 23 points and remained red-hot from the free-throw line (11-of-12)…Notre Dame has played Indiana State just twice before - in 1947 and 2010. The Irish defeated the Sycamores, 66-49, in 1947. Ben Hansbrough tossed in 19 of his 24 points in the second half of Notre Dame’s 81-72 victory over Indiana State in 2010.

Top losses

R.J. Mahurin (10.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg.)

Top players

G-Jake Odum (6-4, 170, Sr.): The Sycamores’ top returning scorer (13.6 ppg.) as well as No. 3 rebounder (4.5) and top assist man (4.6). A pre-season all-MVC selection. Tossed in 23 points in the one-point loss to Belmont Thursday night. Has converted 21-of-23 free throws.
F-Manny Arop (6-6, 215, Sr.): Indiana State’s second-leading returning scorer (12.0) and top returning rebounder (5.1). A pre-season all-MVC selection. A Gonzaga transfer, Arop is very athletic but also turnover prone with 70 in 2012-13.
C-Justin Gant (6-8, 210, Jr.): Started 30 games for the Sycamores in 2012-13, averaging 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Scored in double figures in six straight games, including 18 points against Illinois State and Northern Iowa. Closed the season with 16 points against Iowa in the NIT.
G-Dawon Cummings (6-4, 175, Sr.): Averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season, but shot just 38.7 percent. Came out firing against Ball State in the 2013-14 opener, converting 6-of-8 three-pointers and scoring 21 points.

Inside the Irish

The Irish are off to a great start statistically after knocking off Miami (Ohio), 74-62, and Stetson, 80-49, last weekend at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame is shooting .532 from the field and .500 from three-point range (9-of-18). Just as impressive is Notre Dame’s outstanding 43-to-14 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Senior Jerian Grant has started the fastest, tossing in 26 points against the RedHawks in the season-opener. Grant paces the Irish in scoring (20.5 ppg.) while shooting .650 from the field (13-of-20), .636 from beyond the arc (7-of-11) and .800 from the free-throw line (8-of-10). He also has a team-high 11 assists (one more than Eric Atkins).

Junior Pat Connaughton is the only other Irish player averaging double-figure scoring (10.5), although Atkins and fifth-year senior Garrick Sherman are at 9.0. Connaughton and Sherman pace the Irish with 6.5 rebounds per game.

Fifth-year senior Tom Knight (7-of-13), sophomore Austin Burgett (6-of-8), sophomore Zach Auguste (5-of-9), and freshman Demetrius Jackson (5-of-7) have contributed significantly to Notre Dame’s .532 field-goal shooting. Defensively, the Irish have allowed a .375 field-goal conversion rate, including an outstanding .289 from beyond the arc (13-of-45).

Brey on Indiana State

“This is an ACC game and we could use an ACC kind of crowd for this game. Let’s practice our ACC crowd and sixth man helping us because they’re very good. It’s going to be a tough game and a great challenge for us, and that’s why we scheduled it. They’re coming up here extremely confident with a veteran, well-coached group. They know how to play. This is an ACC kind of preparation. Our guys know how good they are.”

Prister’s take

Although the days of Larry Bird are long gone in Terre Haute, it would be a mistake to assume that playing little ol’ Indiana State from the Missouri Valley Conference will be an easy assignment for the Irish. The MVC is no slouch as Final Four participant Wichita State proved a year ago, a team that the Sycamores knocked off in Wichita. Gone is Creighton and superstar Doug McDermott, now a member of the newfangled Big East. But this remains a formidable mid-major conference with plenty of competition.

The Sycamores appeared on the verge of an NCAA tournament berth a year ago after non-conference victories over Miami (Fla.) and Mississippi, and the big road win over Wichita State. But losses in five of their last six games sent them to the NIT, where they lost to Iowa in the first round.

Now, four starters are back - team-leader Jake Odum, Manny Arop, Dawon Cummings and Justin Gant - as well as 6-foot-10 junior Jake Kitchell, sophomore Khristian Smith and junior college transfer Demetrius Moore. This is a quality, dangerous basketball team.

This has the makings of a high-scoring game. Indiana State tossed in 95 points in a losing effort against Belmont while the Irish picked up the scoring pace against Stetson and are shooting well over 50 percent as a team. Meanwhile, the Sycamores surrendered 63 second-half points to Belmont and 59.6 percent shooting, and 53.2 percent shooting to Ball State. Put it all together and this could be a high-scoring affair at Purcell Pavilion.

Outside of Kitchell and Gant, the Sycamores don’t offer much size, although Arop’s athleticism is a challenge. Look for Garrick Sherman, Tom Knight and Zach Auguste to have success in the paint. Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant could prove to be difficult match-ups for the Sycamores as well.

Mike Brey-coached teams have been phenomenal in non-conference home games. Rarely does a Notre Dame team under Brey let an opportunity like this slip away. But the Irish will need to be sharp to maintain their home non-conference dominance, and as many “players” as Indiana State has, the Irish have a few more.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 11
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 83, Indiana State 79
Prister's record: 2-0 straight up; 0-1 vs. points


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