As inspiring as the trip to Butler may have been, the true fun from this Hoosier State expedition was being able to share the basketball travels with three of my friends. Wes is my best friend from our college days at Missouri. Drew is the Southern Illinois grad who has already made trips with me to Memphis and Carbondale. Toby is Drew's friend, and I've gotten to know him over the past couple of years. They're all awesome guys, and I knew we'd have fun on this trip.
As I've mentioned, I want to get as many of my friends involved in these games as possible, if for no other reason than to stave off what many of us have felt while on the highways of Hoops Nation.
I know this is something I don't need to harp on with this crowd, but the road can be a harsh place. Unfamiliarity, loneliness, the hustle of the trip all wear on most of us, on those who favor comfort.
The four of us were most certainly familiar with the hustle. We left St. Louis just after 7 a.m. to make sure we made it to Indianapolis in plenty of time for the Butler game then made the quick hour's drive to Terre Haute, after we had lingered in the magic that is Hinkle, of course, to see the Missouri Valley showdown between Wichita State and Indiana State.
Just having other people along for this trip made it all the more easier. I didn't even mind that the majority of conversation coming from Drew and Toby involved their plans for an upcoming fantasy baseball draft. I like baseball, but when it's basketball season, it's BASKETBALL SEASON! I don't acknowledge the existence of baseball until the final lingering notes of "One Shining Moment" fade to silence. But again, just having others around makes the road easier to handle.
The Shockers have handled the road as well as can be expected this season. A couple of neutral-site losses in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan are the only losses suffered away from Wichita while pulling off wins at Bradley (by 39!), Evansville (by 1!) and Southern Illinois (by 10).
On a totally unrelated note, upon arriving at the Hulman Center and purchasing a program, I discovered I know the Sycamores' director of basketball operations, Rich Kemper. I worked with Kemper's twin brother in Oklahoma City and had met Rich on a couple of occasions. I had no idea how small the basketball world is, but I'm sure it's like any other business. I made sure to pay slightly more attention to the man on the end of the bench, who was the Keeper of the Dry-erase Board and Grabber of the Stats Printout at each media timeout. I'm sure he has many more important duties. Hopefully I can get in touch with him during the Missouri Valley Tournament, which is the next time I'll see the Trees.
Soon after tipoff, we found out the superhoop would be the shot of choice tonight, as Sycamore R.J. Mahurin and Shocker Demetric Williams alternated knocking down a pair of 3s in the first four minutes of the game. By the under-8 timeout of the first half, there had been seven superhoops made, and the WSU lead was six. The Sycamores tried to respond and close the lead, coming within two late in the half thanks to a fantastic OOP from Jake Odum to Dwayne Lathan and a driving layup from Steve McWhorter. But the Shockers would reply with more 3-point prowess, as a pair of 3s from David Kyles helped give the visitors a 10-point halftime lead.
The second half continued the cat-and-mouse, with the Shockers using the 3 to knock out any comeback attempts made by the Sycamores. Indiana State actually drew within two at 60-58 with just more than three minutes left, but a deep 3 followed by an old fashioned 4-point play, both from Ben Smith, in the next minute sealed the Shocker win.
The four of us quickly left Terre Haute and started the drive back to St. Louis, as we still had one more game to get to on Monday, a strictly above-the-red-line affair at my alma mater. Jeer as you may, but it will be my only trip there this season. On the way to St. Louis, we passed the drive time by me owning the lot of them in the Radio Game. I was an artist and title machine! I scored more than the three of them combined. But I'm humble about it. Actually, I was just glad to have them along. Here's to hoping for many more trips together in the future, because the road is so much easier with them.
WICHITA STATE 75, at INDIANA STATE 65 01/15/2012
WICHITA STATE 15-3 (6-1) -- B. Simons 7-12 3-3 21; T. Murry 5-13 6-6 16; J. Ragland 1-7 5-5 8; D. Williams 3-6 1-2 9; D. Kyles 5-6 2-2 16; B. Smith 3-8 1-3 10; C. Hall 2-7 1-3 5; G. Stutz 1-4 6-6 8; E. Orukpe 1-1 0-0 2; J. White 0-0 1-2 1; T. Cotton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-52 23-29 75. INDIANA STATE 11-7 (2-5) -- D. Lathan 7-11 2-3 17; C. Richard 4-12 4-4 13; J. Odum 1-7 4-6 6; S. McWhorter 1-6 0-0 2; M. Walker 3-10 0-2 6; J. Printy 3-7 0-0 8; J. Kitchell 2-3 0-0 4; R. Mahurin 3-7 0-0 9; J. Gant 0-0 0-0 0; L. Eitel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-63 10-15 65.
Three-point goals: WICH 10-20 (T. Murry 0-3; D. Kyles 4-5; D. Williams 2-3; J. Ragland 1-4; B. Smith 3-5), INST 7-19 (J. Printy 2-6; D. Lathan 1-4; C. Richard 1-2; J. Odum 0-1; R. Mahurin 3-5; J. Kitchell 0-1); Rebounds: WICH 35 (G. Stutz 11), INST 38 (M. Walker 14); Assists: WICH 10 (T. Murry 3), INST 17 (J. Odum 8); Total Fouls -- WICH 17, INST 20; Fouled Out: WICH-None; INST-R. Mahurin.