Road warrior Sycamores head north to NDSU

Dec. 12—Where in the world is the Indiana State men's basketball team this week?

It's a worthy question because if it seems the Sycamores have constantly been away from Terre Haute? You're not far off being right.

Monday's 8 p.m. game at North Dakota State will be the Sycamores' seventh away from Hulman Center. North Dakota will be the fifth different state ISU has played a road or neutral site game in.

ISU rarely has a schedule filled with home games — one of the perennial complaints about the program is its lack of budget to buy games — but even by the standards of that, this has been an unusual season of travel.

Since college basketball moved the start of its schedule to early November in 2006, ISU has only had two other seasons — 2011 and 2019 — where it played seven games away from Hulman Center by Dec. 13.

In neither of those seasons did ISU travel to as many different places as it has so far this season.

This trip to Fargo, N.D. — one made semi-regularly by the football team, but rarely for basketball — was done differently too.

ISU decided to travel on Saturday for the trip. Due to budget necessities, ISU flew this trip commercial. That meant for a long Saturday with a long layover (and delay) in Denver before the team finally arrived in North Dakota at 9 p.m. Terre Haute time.

ISU coach Josh Schertz said the team is trying to get to the point where it can charter every flight.

"We're in the process of improving our private, charter travel. We're going from propellers to jets, which are more expensive, so the trade-off as we get there is we took this time commercial. It was a full day of travel after we practiced this morning in Terre Haute," Schertz said Saturday night.

Another reason the team left two days early is Schertz's preference for getting one full practice in at a visiting arena.

"I've always been a proponent of practicing at the opponents' site. Not so much to get a feel for the facility, though that is important, but to get the trip off of our legs. If you leave [the day before a game], I think the travel stays on your legs. We'll practice here on Sunday," Schertz said.

So far, ISU is 2-4 away from Hulman Center, with an 81-77 win at Green Bay in the opener on Nov. 9 and a 77-36 blowout win over Old Dominion on Nov. 18 in Conway, S.C. during the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

ISU was competitive in a conference road loss at Loyola, but it's been a mixed bag in other contests away from Hulman Center. Purdue, Oklahoma and New Mexico State out-classed the Sycamores and ISU played its worst game at Ball State.

ISU will get a different kind of challenge against NDSU. It's a classic case of size versus speed.

NDSU (6-4) has the size. The Bison's top scorers are 6-foot-10 Rocky Kreuser (14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and 6-10 Grant Nelson (11.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg). Given that Dearon Tucker (6-10) is the only player of comparable size who plays regularly for ISU, the Sycamores need to keep the Bison out of their post game someway, somehow.

"We can't let them get rhythm in the half-court and just have them pound us inside. We're at a significant size advantage," Schertz said.

Schertz said ISU will have to play to its strength — it's speed, it's desire to score in transition — to blunt the Bison.

"We have to use our speed against their size and we have to play fast and with great action in the half-court to shift them around [defensively] and use our speed," Schertz said.

NDSU is 5-0 at the Scheels Center, though two of the wins were against non-Division I competition. The Bison have won in every way, including two one-possession victories and three blowouts.

The Bison have been playing at one of the slowest paces in the country, but Schertz noted that the return of NDSU guard Sam Greisel has sped the Bison up a bit.

Some good news for ISU is that it will have its full compliment of players for the first time this season. Julian Larry has returned from an ankle injury and Quimari Peterson has had a week's worth of practices to at least get him to the point where he's up to speed with what ISU is doing.

As always with Schertz, expect rotation and the fact that he will determine minutes for all players based on matchup need. ISU only played seven Sycamores in the win over Miami of Ohio on Dec. 4.

"Julian is back and is available. Quimari, if we need him, could play. He's got a week of practice under his belt to improve his conditioning level. Knock on wood, all 13 guys, sans Tyreke [Key] should be available, which is the first time this year," Schertz said.

This game is the middle contest of a 2-for-1 series. NDSU played in Terre Haute during the 2019-20 season and is scheduled to return to Hulman Center in the 2022-23 season.

ISU at North Dakota State

Tipoff — 8 p.m. Monday at Scheels Center, Fargo, N.D.

Broadcasts — Webstream: ESPN+. Radio: WZJK-FM (105.5). Twitter: @TribStarTodd.

Records — ISU 4-5, NDSU 6-4.

Series — ISU leads 1-0. ISU won during the 2019-20 season at Hulman Center.

Last time out — ISU defeated Miami 69-68 on Dec. 4. NDSU beat Cal State-Northridge 68-54 on Friday.

Next — ISU hosts Alabama A&M on Saturday. NDSU plays at Pacific on Friday.