TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Led by a balanced scoring attack and lock down defense, the Indiana State men's basketball team (10-5, 3-1 MVC) improved to 3-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play with a 68-53 win over the visiting Braves of Bradley (10-6, 2-2 MVC) Wednesday inside Hulman Center.
The Sycamores improved to 34-2 when holding opponents to 63 points or less and 13-0 when holding opponents to 53 points or less under head coach Greg Lansing. ISU is 3-1 to start MVC play for the first time since a similar start in 2007-08. The Sycamores are 10-5 to begin the season for the second consecutive year.
With the win the Sycamores have now won four straight home contests against Bradley and five in its last six attempts against the Braves.
Justin Gant and Manny Arop led the Sycamores with 13 points each while Jake Odum added 11. Nine different Sycamores scored in the contest and as a team Indiana State shot 50% from the floor. Junior RJ Mahurin and Dawon Cummings led the Sycamores rebounding effort with six boards each.
Defensively, the Sycamores held the Braves to 21-66 shooting for 32% while out rebounding the Braves by a 38-34 margin. Indiana State is a perfect 6-0 on the season when outrebounding the opposition. The Sycamores recorded a season-best nine blocked shots, including a season-best three from Gant.
The Sycamore offense struck first, taking a 4-0 lead over the Braves off baskets by juniors Manny Arop and Jake Odum. The Braves answered with two buckets in the lane before junior Justin Gant hit a triple and long jumper to give the Sycamores a 9-4 lead just four minutes into the opening frame.
Throughout the opening minutes, the Sycamores used a balance scoring attack with five different Sycamores recording points in the first 11 minutes of action and shooting 50% as a team from the floor
With just over eight minutes remaining in the first half, the Sycamores extended their lead to six at 20-14 following an Arop layup and free throw by junior Dawon Cummings. The Braves battled back over the next three minutes before using back-to-back baskets off turnovers to take their first lead of the game at 23-22.
The Bradley lead was short lived thanks to a pair of Gant free throws and a jumper by freshman Khristian Smith to give the Sycamores a 26-23 lead. The Sycamores held onto a three-point lead for the remainder of the half, holding a 28-25 advantage at the break.
Smith led six Sycamore scorers with eight halftime points coming off 3-4 shooting from the floor and 2-2 from the charity stripe. Gant also added seven points while the Sycamores held the Braves to just 34% shooting as a team.
Coming out of the locker room the Sycamores began to heat up on offense hitting four of the their first five shots of the second frame. Arop got the Sycamores going with a mid-range jumper followed by a Mahurin bucket to give the Sycamores a seven-point advantage at 32-25.
Following the first media timeout of the second half, freshman Devonte Brown hit a pair of free throws and sophomore Jake Kitchell recorded a layup to give the Sycamores a 10-point advantage at 41-31.
The Braves battled back with a five point run with just over 10 minutes left to play to cut the Sycamores lead to five at 45-40 before making it a one possession game with 7:30 left to play.
Kitchell ended a four-minute Sycamore scoring drought with a layup to followed by an Arop jumper to move the Sycamores back in front of the Braves by seven and force a Bradley timeout.
Odum extended the Sycamore lead even further with just over four minutes to play as he banked in a triple with the shot clock running down to give ISU a 55-46 advantage.
Gant became the first Sycamore to reach double figures off a pair of free throws following the under four minute media timeout to give the Sycamores their largest lead of the game at 57-46.
The Sycamores grew their lead to 15 over the final minutes and went on to defeat the Braves by a final score of 68-53.
Bradley was led by a 15-point effort from Walt Lemon, Jr. The Braves recorded 12 steals in the contest, paced by five from Dyricus Simms-Edwards and four from Lemon, Jr.
The Sycamores will return to action Saturday when they travel to face the Salukis of Southern Illinois at 8 p.m. in Carbondale, Ill.