By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
The Indiana State Sycamores get a crack at some BCS conference competition over the holidays and look to build upon a perfect 4-0 mark after a one-point win over Green Bay on Monday night.
The Sycamores head to Orlando, Fla. to participate in the Old Spice Classic and will take on Billy Gillespie's Texas Tech squad on Thanksgiving afternoon. So while the annual football tradition takes place a little later in the afternoon, ISU fans can catch their squad on ESPN2 beginning with a noon tip-off.
The field also includes Arizona State, Dayton, Depaul, Fairfield, Minnesota and Wake Forest. The Sycamores will play either Depaul or Minnesota in round two Friday afternoon.
Gillespie is in his first season at the helm of a Red Raiders squad that is coming off a 13-19 mark last year and a 10th-place finish in the Big 12. Tech will have a very new look this year as four starters graduated from that team and a total of 10 letter winners are no longer with the squad. Correspondingly, the Red Raiders have a total of 10 freshmen or sophomores on the roster to go with four transfers. Eight of the newcomers are true freshmen. That being said however, Texas Tech comes in with a 3-0 mark after defeating Troy (90-85), North Texas (69-64) and Stephen F. Austin (66-54) on Sunday.
Returning for Texas Tech is the lone senior, Robert Lewandowski (6'10, 245 lbs.), who brings the bulk of the experience with a 95-game career for Tech. Last s season he averaged 8.5 ppg. and 4.8 rpg. The other two returnees are sophomores in 5'11, 170 lbs. Javarez Willis and 6'7, 200 lbs. Jaye Crockett.
The newcomers are certainly not without talent as junior Ty Nurse, a transfer guard from Midlands Junior College, has averaged just under 20 ppg. over the three contests. Lewandowski is second on the team with 12.5 ppg. to go with 5.5 rpg.
The strength of the squad appears to be balance thus far as seven players all average more than 7.0 ppg. and six average at least four rebounds.
The list of true freshmen have some impressive credentials as 6'6, 200 lbs. Cameron Forte led the nation in scoring deep into this year before finishing sixth overall as a high school senior. The Arizona native averaged 36.2 ppg. and 12.7 rpg. per contest. Toddrick Gotcher is third on the team in scoring at 9.5 ppg. after earning All-State honors twice in high school and leading his team to the state finals twice. He averaged 16.4 ppg. and 7.4 rpg. with 83 assists.
Turnovers have plagued Texas Tech this season with an average of 19.5 per game and the Red Raiders have been outrebounded by better than four per game as well.
Indiana State comes into the game with a 4-0 mark for the first time since they won their first eight contests during the 2005-06 season. The Sycamores are 1-0 all-time against Tech with a 1971 victory in the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City by an 88-84 score.
In Monday's victory, the Sycamores rallied to beat Green Bay late as Jordan Printy knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining for a 57-56 victory.
Printy now has 163 career 3-pointers, which is second most all-time in the history of the program. Printy has three consecutive double-digit scoring performances. Printy passed Eddie Bird on the career list with four 3-pointers against Green Bay.
The Sycamores defense was again a key factor as ISU held the Phoenix to just 38.9 percent shooting for the game. However, Indiana State was only slightly better at 42 percent, but the Sycamores won the battle of the boards despite the presence of Green Bay's 6'10 Alec Brown, who was limited to just seven points and four rebounds before fouling out.
No Indiana State player scored more than 12 points, but ISU nearly had four players in double figures led by Printy's 12 points. Myles Walker had 10 points along with Rockville graduate RJ Mahurin, who tallied all 10 of his points in the first half off the bench. Dwayne Lathan scored nine points and added a team-high seven rebounds with three assists. Terre Haute South grad Jake Odum tied a career-high with seven assists.
Regardless of the outcome in the opening round match-up with Tech, the Sycamores will have another good test the following day when they will face either Minnesota (4-0 currently) or DePaul (2-0 currently).
DePaul has a couple of cupcake blowout wins over Mississippi Valley State (80-70) and University of Texas Pan American (91-72). The Blue Devils should certainly be well rested as they haven't played since Nov. 14, a full 10-day lay-off before the holiday tourney. The team is led by the inside-outside combination of senior guard Jeremiah Kelly (17.5 ppg.) and Baltimore sophomore forward, Cleveland Melvin (16.5 ppg.).
Minnesota is a little more tested, coming in at 4-0 and has won all of those games by double-digits.
The Golden Gophers are big, led by 6'11 senior Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe, who is 6'8. Minnesota is listed as the "Land of a 1,000 Lakes," but the Gophers are more like the Team of Many Big Men.
Eight of the players on the 15-man roster are 6'7 or taller with three of them listed at least 6'10.
Mbakwe leads the team at 16.0 ppg. and 9.8 rpg with nearly two blocks per contest as well. He is shooting 59 percent from the field in 30 minutes of action.
Sophomore Austin Hollins is second at 10 ppg. and he is the son of Lionel Hollins, coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Lionel Simmons played on the 1977 Portland Trailblazers team that won the NBA title.
The Minnesota/Depaul game will follow the ISU contest with Dayton taking on Wake Forest in game three at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Arizona State vs. Fairfield will be the nightcap at 9:30 p.m. All games will be televised on ESPN2.