"Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata
Game #9-409: Wichita State Shockers at Indiana State SycamoresFebruary 19, 2013 7:05 pm
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - There were two times that Terre Haute was the center was at the center of the American consciousness in the last century.
The first came nearly one hundred years ago when automobiles
were still relatively new and organizing all the routes across the country fell not to the government, but to whomever, and therefore for a short time, most of the main thoroughfares had names that didn't have numbers at all, some - like stadiums today - having company names in the title.
By the 1920s, things had been structured quite a bit, and Route 41 was a major north-south route that ran from Michigan to Florida, while Route 40 ran east-west from California to Atlantic City, taking the place of the old National Road that had been in place since way back in 1807.
Terre Haute was fortunate enough to have these two main arteries cross right in its downtown, meaning thousands of people came through
, helping to ease the pain of Prohibition, which hit the Terre Haute area very hard.
Of course, at some point people (as automobile technology) got tired of going slowly through downtowns when they were traveling long distances
, and in 1967, Interstate 70 was finished in western Indiana, meaning there wasn't much reason to go through little old Terre Haute that is.
Until 1979, that is, when a kid by the name of Larry Bird didn't like it down the street in Bloomington
, instead came to Terre Haute, and all he did was turn into one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time. For one season, Bird and Indiana State could do no wrong. It, of course, ended in a loss, but not before 33 straight wins brought people to Terre Haute once more and to the corner of Seventh St. and Wabash Ave., where the travelers had come a half-century before.
But, for the most part, like many smaller American cities, Terre Haute (current population approximately 60,000) keeps to itself these days.
(To be fair, Indiana State did return to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and 2001, upsetting Oklahoma in 2001 before losing to Gonzaga in the second round, back when there was no doubt that Gonzaga was a mid-major.)
Indiana State University
can relate, especially from a basketball standpoint. It's not far from Bloomington, so - especially with Indiana University's resurgence - most of the state's focus is on the them. Terre Haute is also 75 miles from Indianapolis, meaning with Butler quickly moving into the national consciousness, Indiana State takes another step back from the limelight.
Tuesday was one of those biting, cold winter days you get on the plains. I arrived early to the Hulman Center and tried my best to tour the Indiana State campus, but it was freezing, so I found a coffee shop to take refuge in (it was still too early to enter the arena), which just happened to be on the corner of Wabash and Seventh, the "Crossroads of America" for a time. I was the only one in there.
On the way out, I was a bit stunned to see one of my favorite poems, Desiderata
, engraved on a giant plaque a block away. Apparently, Max Ehrmann was a Terre Haute native who practiced law and wrote it about the time that this spot gained its "Crossroads of America" title in 1927. That, strangely, made my day.
Eventually, it was safe to head down Larry Bird Ave. into the Hulman Center, which had its charm (and Girl Scout cookies again), but you can see that it's tough to fill the place these days. Announced attendance for this game was 6,169, about 4,000 short of capacity. Strangely, my options for tickets were $25 for the lower bowl and $5 for the upper. Not a real tough call there. So it had that going for it, Which was nice.
I was seeing Wichita State for the second time in three days (one more, and I officially get a Gregg Marshall groupie card), and the game played out similarly to Sunday's in Normal, except Indiana State was struggling just as much as the Shockers. The Sycamores held a 14-11 lead with six minutes left in the first half, and Rockfight Warnings were about to go up before Cleanthony Early came off the bench to hit back-to-back #superhoops, and Indiana State answered with a pair of its own to make the game 25-25 at the break.
Greg Lansing appears to have done a nice job with Indiana State, who will likely have a winning record for the fourth straight year, but his team was just overmatched physically Tuesday night. I was excited to see point guard Jake Odum, who I saw torture Syracuse (as well as the Valley earlier) in the NCAA Tournament two years ago as a freshman, but he had trouble with the Wichita State perimeter defense, although he did finish with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Odum mysteriously finished only 2--for-6 at the free throw line. He still had a better day than backcourt mate Dawon Cummings, who as forced into seven turnovers in just 25 minutes of action.
Indiana State had upset the Shockers in Wichita last month largely through a zone that Wichita State couldn't solve, and the Sycamores were still in the game for most of the second half, Odum scoring seven straight points to cut the advantage to 49-48 with 6:15 left. It was 59-51 with 1:30 to go, but Marshall and the Shockers nearly had a reversal of their stunning comeback two days earlier.
I did get to scream "Bleed" a few times at one of the last time outs, as Indiana State's chant is "Bleed Blue", which meant the other half of Hulman Arena was urged to yell "Blue", while our side yelled "Bleed". But that relieved some tension, at least.
R.J. Mahurin had a four-point play and Cummings added a superhoop to cut the lead to 64-62 with 24 seconds left. After a time out, Lansing didn't immediately foul, which seemed to baffle Early, who was stuck in the corner. Indiana State had the possession arrow and it looked from my seat in the upper bowl like Odum has tied him up, but the referee much closer than me disagreed, Early hit both free throws, and Wichita State escaped.
It was only the second defeat of the season at the Hulman Center for the Sycamores, the only other one coming way back at the beginning of December in overtime against New Mexico.
Now 23-5, 14-2 in the Valley, the Shockers have some flaws, especially on the offensive end, but they have the look of a team that will not be an easy out in the NCAA Tournament. They are extremely athletic and have very good size, which makes them very tough to score on. Perhaps most importantly, it's a veteran group, starting four seniors who have obviously played in a lot of close games and won't be fazed by a big-game environment next month.
Unlike Illinois State, there was no post-game activity on the court, so there was no reason to hang around the Hulman Center, but on the way out, I saw a coupon on the ground for food at the Ballyhoo Tavern , and I was hungry. It turned out that my car was parked directly across the street from the place, how convenient. It also wasn't exactly a restaurant, but a campus pub that just happened to serve food. I'm not much for bars anymore, but I had to wait 20 minutes for the pizza, so I decided to sit down and have a beer and look at the autographed Larry Bird paraphernalia, including an Olympic jersey (sadly, I couldn't get them to put VCU-Saint Louis on, only Florida-Missouri graced their screens).
As the music picked up, and attractive college girls a decade too old for me danced and sang, my pizza was ready and it was time to leave Terre Haute.
The guy next to me said goodbye and I told him it was too bad about Indiana State, maybe they'd make a run in the Valley Tournament like they did a couple of years ago.
While still wearing a blue Indiana State shirt, he said, "That's OK. IU beat Michigan State in East Lansing. That's enough to make my day."
Life in the Mid-Majority. Where's a young Larry Bird when you need him?