TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- On a weekend where Sycamore legend Larry Bird had a 17-foot statue dedicated in his honor in front of Hulman Center and Bird sat right by the court that he set many records on during his illustrious career, the current Indiana State team opened its 2013-14 campaign with a 82-73 victory in front of 7,221 enthusiastic fans.
ISU opened the season with a victory for the fourth time in the last five seasons and improved to 76-42 all-time in lidlifters. The Sycamores have now won each of their last three meetings with Ball State, which is longest winning streak over the Cardinals since Bird and the Sycamores won four in a row from 1976-79.
Dawon Cummings played a huge role in the Sycamore victory, especially in the first half as he scored a career-high 21 points on the strength of a 7-of-10 shooting performance, including a 6-of-8 mark from 3-point range. Cummings hit each of his first five attempts from long range and was 5-of-6 from 3-point land in the opening stanza.
He was one of four Sycamores to reach double figures scoring as Jake Odum tallied 17 points and hit 10-of-11 free throw attempts to go with a game-high seven assists. Manny Arop was 6-of-8 from the field to score 14 while Just Gant had 11 points. Khristian Smith led ISU with six rebounds.
In a tribute to the sharp-shooting ways of Bird, ISU hit 15-of-25 shots from the field (60 percent) in the first half and finished 28-of-50, for 56 percent. ISU was even better from 3-point range as they hit 56.3 percent (9-of-16) for the game and was 6-of-9 before halftime.
ISU was also solid at the free throw line as they hit each of their first nine charity tosses and was 17-of-20 for the game (85 percent). In a game that saw more shots made than missed for both teams, ISU held a 27-22 edge on the glass. The Sycamore offense had 18 assists on 28 made field goals in the contest.
The Sycamores led the contest wire-to-wire as Cummings hit back-to-back 3-pointers on two of the first three possessions to stake ISU to a quick 6-0 advantage. ISU led 13-3 with 15:28 remaining in the first half on a lay-up by Jake Kitchell. The Cardinals would grind the lead back to down to three points twice as the clock ticked under the 10 minute mark, but Cummings had the answer both times with trifectas to give the Sycamores a 23-17 advantage at the 9:05 mark.
ISU would score eight of the last 10 points in the opening half after Ball State trimmed the lead down to 35-32 with 1:44 on the clock, but Gant hit a lay-up, the defense forced a turnover and then Gant buried a 3-pointer to run the lead back out to 40-32. A pair of Jesse Berry free throws with 22 seconds on the clock looked like it would be the final scoring of the first half, but Odum was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.3 seconds left to stretch the lead out to 43-34 at the break.
Gant continued the Sycamore run with a jumper 11 seconds into the second half for a 45-34 lead. The Indiana State lead would grow to as many as 53-38 (15 points) on a lay-up by Manny Arop with 16:19 remaining. Ball State got as close as 64-58 at the 9:52 mark on a triple by Berry, but Odum had the answer with a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back out to 67-58.
Arop sealed the victory with a fast break dunk at the 26 second mark for an 81-71 lead and Odum added a free throw with 13 seconds on the clock for the 82-73 victory.
Berry led Ball State with 23 points while Zavier Turner scored 17.
Indiana State continues the campaign on Thursday, November 14 when they travel to Belmont for a 8:00 p.m. (ET) tip-off.