On Tuesday’s Missouri Valley teleconference, Indiana State coach Greg Lansing offered an update on suspended second-leading scorer Manny Arop, a junior transfer from Gonzaga who averages 12.6 points per game.
Arop, a 6-foot-6 forward, has missed the Sycamores’ last two games, including last Saturday’s loss to UE. The 79.3 percent shooter still hasn’t been cleared to play in the MVC tournament, which the fifth-seeded Sycamores kick off with a 2:35 p.m. Friday rematch against the No. 4 Aces at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Said Lansing: “I’ll kind of decide here this week what I’m going to do with him heading into the tournament. He came with us down there and practiced with us and went through warmups and stuff. Probably make that decision even right up to game time.”
(UE coach Marty Simmons spoke openly on the teleconference as if he expected Arop to play Friday. “They’re just a very versatile team, and on top of that, they’re getting one of their — in my opinion — leaders back in Manny, who is just a dynamic player in the league who can do things on both ends of the court,” Simmons said.)
Lansing on where Indiana State went wrong in an 84-68 loss to UE last Saturday: “We have to be a lot more resilient. We have to compete harder. You’re talking about playing a team in our conference that’s well coached and prepared to compete as hard on every possession as anyone in the conference. I was really looking forward to going down there Saturday and being senior day with their six seniors — obviously Colt (Ryan) being a senior — tough, tough competitors like Troy Taylor and Ned Cox. We knew it was going to be a tough task, but we had been struggling. I knew it was going to be a tough task without Manny as well. We needed to get right. I just told the guys, ‘We need to start grinding again, and that’s the ultimate team to do that against. We didn’t answer the challenge for 40 minutes. We had some pretty good spurts playing there, but we weren’t nearly competitive enough or resilient enough to beat a team like that.”
The Sycamores are just two years removed from winning the MVC tournament as the No. 3 seed. Junior point guard Jake Odum has plenty of experience from that run. “I think it’s real beneficial,” Lansing said. “The only problem there is, none of the other guys do. RJ (Mahurin) played a little bit on that team, but he played pretty good in St. Louis. And that was really it. Jake knows what it takes, and he’s been a good guy all year bringing his teammates with him. He knows he’s got some good players around him, and he knows he hasn’t played great the last couple weeks nor has his team, but shoot, he did that as a redshirt freshman. And there’s nobody who wants to win as bad, and there’s nobody more competitive than that guy. He’s a good guy to lead your team into a tournament setting like this, because he’s not going to stop.”
Lansing agreed that anything could happen at the conference tournament, where Creighton goes in with five losses and last-place Southern Illinois with six wins. “I really think so, and I also think in our situation, we just haven’t played well and we’ve been at it for 10 months now. We had to come back early after our Bahamas trip, and maybe some of our guys are winding down. But each team in the league has had a tough stretch, including the conference champion (Creighton) and Wichita (State) there as the two seed. So it is really wide open. All these guys prepare so well. The head coaches and assistants prepare so well going into it. It could be a momentum thing. We’re hoping it’s not a momentum thing, because we don’t have much going into it.”