OXFORD -- The Sports Illustrated cover photo of Larry Bird with two Indiana State cheerleaders holding index fingers to their lips as if they were trying to keep a secret is considered by many to be iconic – even 45 years after the edition hit newsstands and mailboxes.
The Sycamores of the Missouri Valley Conference didn’t need the Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and program’s most prestigious product to dominate the Miami RedHawks on Saturday.
Graduate-senior guard Courvoisier McCauley led four Indiana State players into double figures with 30 points as the Sycamores of Terre Haute cruised to an 88-61 win over Miami at Millett Hall in Oxford.
Indiana State improved to 8-1 and matched its biggest win of the season over an NCAA Division I team while snapping the RedHawks brief two-game win streak.
“We gave up in the first half,” said 6-foot-5 redshirt-junior guard and team tri-captain Morgan Safford, who scored 10 points in just less than 27 minutes. “We got punched in the mouth. We gave up after bad things happened. They got off to a hot start. That’s been our Achilles heel. We’ve got to stick together as a team.”
Freshman guard Ryan Mabrey scored 13 points in just less than 31 minutes to lead Miami, which drops to 3-5. Fifth-year senior guard Mekhi Lairy scored 12 28-plus minutes before leaving with an apparent right leg injury.
The Sycamores led by as many as 37 points, outrebounded Miami, 39-32, and forced 16 turnovers while committing only 10. They shot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the field, including 47.1 percent on 3-pointers, while limiting Miami to 33.9 percent (19-of-56) overall and 15.8 percent (3-of-19) on 3-pointers. The RedHawks finished with four assists.
“First and foremost, give Indiana State a lot of credit,” first-year Miami coach Travis Steele. “That’s a great team. They’ve showed significant improvement from last season. They showed toughness at both ends. With their physicality, they set the rules. They’re big and strong and they bullied us. The officials are going to call the game the way they’re going to call the game, and we have to embrace that. Our transition defense, which we’ve worked at, was awful.
“Our 16 turnovers show that we didn’t embrace the physicality of the game. They hit 16 3s because they got open looks. You can’t dare guys to shoot. We were a joke at the defensive end.”
The Sycamores never trailed after McCauley sank a 3-pointer for a 3-2 lead. They took command with a 15-0 run that led to a 50-24 lead late in the first half. McCauley, who went into the game averaging 15.9 points per game, scored 24 in the first half – 15 while going 5-for-7 on 3-pointers.
Indiana State shot a blistering 59.4 percent (19-of-32) from the field, including 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) on 3-pointers while building a 30-poing lead, 58-38, by halftime. The RedHawks managed 32 percent (8-of-25) overall and 25 percent (2-of-8) on 3-pointers.
Mabrey scored 10 points to lead Miami in the first half. The RedHawks were 10-of-11 on free throws by halftime.
“I told the guys at halftime that we’re competing against ourselves,” Steele said. “There were a lot of blank faces.”
The RedHawks are off for exam week before returning to the Millett Hall court on Sunday at 1 p.m. to face National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II Calumet College. The Crimson Wave of Whiting, Ind., play in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
They are scheduled to follow up with their first set of back-to-back road games of the season at Cincinnati on Dec. 14 and at Bellarmine in Louisville, Ky., Dec. 17.
Steele plans to use the time to focus on defense and rebounding. Safford has additional priorities himself and fellow co-captains Lairy and Anderson Mirambeaux.
“It’s up to me and Mekhi and Anderson to challenge everybody in practice,” Safford said. “We have to do a much better job. We hope to be better, and we will be better.”
Calumet College at Miami, 1 p.m., 980, 1450
About the Author