Indiana State implemented Greg Lansing's game plan almost perfectly Wednesday night.
They kept No. 4 Wichita State off the glass. They held Ron Baker in check and buckled down defensively. They committed nine turnovers against the Missouri Valley Conference's top defense, and with 2:01 left in the game, they were within two points of the unbeaten Shockers.
Yet they still couldn't beat their old nemesis.
Wichita State didn't allow a basket over the final 2 minutes and finished the game on a 7-2 run to hold off Indiana State 65-58.
"They made the plays, they made their free throws," Lansing said. "We did everything we could on the defensive end, we just couldn't put the ball in the basket."
Nothing fell for the Sycamores (17-6, 8-3 Missouri Valley Conference).
They were 6 of 30 (20 percent) from the field and 2 of 15 on 3-pointers (13.3 percent) in the second half, and over the final 4 minutes they were just 4 of 8 from the free throw line.
It was just enough to prevent Jake Odum from picking up his fifth career win over a ranked opponent — a number that would have moved him past Larry Bird, who had four wins over ranked foes.
Manny Arop had 16 points, while Odum and Kristian Smith added 11 each for Indiana State.
"You can't shoot 20 percent from the field and 13 percent from the 3-point line and beat them," Lansing said.
For Wichita State, it was all by design.
When coach Gregg Marshall looked at the scoreboard with 85 seconds left and saw the 58-56 score, he challenged his players to defend and rebound. They did.
"At one point, Coach said, 'If they don't score again, we win,'" Baker said. "So our focus was on rebounding and defense the rest of the way."
That's always been a priority for Marshall and it's a big reason the Shockers (24-0, 11-0 Missouri Valley) extended their school record winning streak, are 11-0 in conference play for the first time in school history and are the first Missouri Valley Conference team to open a season with 24 consecutive wins since Indiana State and Bird went 33-0 in 1978-79.
There's another reason these Shockers and No. 2 Syracuse (22-0) are the only unbeaten teams in major college basketball.
Wichita State is just plain tough.
Players and coaches refused to let their weather delayed arrival in Terre Haute make them sluggish.
They refused to give in to the boisterous crowd that tried to do everything it could to help the Sycamores protect their home court and Bird's legacy as the Valley's last perfect team to reach postseason play without a loss.
They ignored the unusually packed student section that was so eager to get into the game they were lining up more than two hours before tip-off in chilly temperatures and about 6 inches of new snow cover. They were not deterred by an 8-for-23 shooting effort in the second half or the fact that they were outrebounded for one of the few times this season.
"We won it with defense in the second half," Marshall said. "...We didn't shoot the ball nearly as well in the second half as we did the first. But in the second half, it was all about rebounding and defense."
The Shockers were led by Cleanthony Early, who scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, and Tekele Cotton with 14 points. Chadrack Lufile finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
But the Sycamores couldn't avoid a season sweep to stay in the conference title hunt and they had nobody to blame but themselves.
Indiana State started both halves sluggishly, opening the game with a flurry of turnovers that forced them to fight back from an early 11-3 deficit. When they thought they had finally gotten even at halftime, on what was initially ruled a 3-pointer the officials changed the call to a 2-pointer, handing Wichita State a 36-35 lead.
Arop delivered again by starting the second half with a 10-foot leaner to give the Sycamores their only lead of the game, 37-36.
Wichita State then forced six straight misses, ran out to a 50-39 lead with 12:34 to play and appeared headed to its seventh straight double-digit win.
Instead, the feisty Sycamores charged back and called timeout with 1:25 left to set up a potentially tying or go-ahead basket. Justin Gant missed a layup and the Sycamores never got another chance.
"That was quite a battle, quite a game against a tremendous team and with a great atmosphere," Marshall said. "That's why it's so hard to win on the road."