Key statistics: Wichita State outscored the home team 31-11 at the foul line and committed three turnovers in the final 25 minutes. The Shockers also forced seven second-half turnovers and scored 11 points off those errors to erase an 18-point halftime deficit.
How the game turned: WSU trailed by 19 points with 11:48 to play. The Shockers shaved 11 points off that deficit in just more than two minutes, helped by Bears turnovers. Ron Baker started the 11-0 run with a three and Chadrack Lufile added a free throw with 10:24 to play. WSU then forced turnovers on three straight possessions, finishing them with an Early dunk, a Baker three and two Early free throws. The Shockers trailed 54-46 with 9:07 to play and kept coming.
Records: WSU 17-0, 4-0 MVC; MSU 12-4, 2-2
- Win or lose, the Shockers were due for a reality check. They trailed at Saint Louis by seven in the final seven minutes and won 70-65. They pulled away in the final five minutes to beat Tennessee 70-61. They maintained a small lead over the final five minutes at Alabama and won 72-67. So the Shockers had played pressure minutes, but nothing like trailing by 19 with just under 12 minutes remaining in front of the season’s most hostile crowd. Anybody who thought the season would be an easy ride for WSU got educated. And the Shockers won. It doesn’t always work out that well. “People who deal with the Missouri Valley and are in it and got to play every day, they know how tough it is to win on the road,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “That’s the way it’s going to be in the Valley. You want to be battle-tested.”
- VanVleet scored 12 of his 16 points in the final two minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime period. As they have all season, the Shockers do a good job of making teams who switch defenders on screens pay. VanVleet got to the rim twice coming off screens and beating bigger defenders who switched to guard him. “They had the big kid (Tyler McCullough) in there and we tried to get him involved in a ball screen,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s hard for any big, young kid to guard Fred VanVleet.”
- VanVleet’s three-point play with 47.7 second to play was critical. I watched it several times and I think the block call on MSU’s Nathan Scheer was correct by a whisker. If it is, it’s because Scheer was the secondary defender and still moving as VanVleet began his upward motion, a rule change explained here. It also appears that WSU is fortunate Lufile wasn’t called for taunting Scheer after the play. The replay doesn’t give us a great angle and I can’t be sure if Lufile said anything, but he definitely leaned over Scheer during the celebration after the call. Whether or not he actually taunted, that’s the kind of action that can earn attention from the officials. The Shockers caught the Bears in a small lineup, as ESPN3 color man Rich Zvosec pointed out, and Lufile, Early and Tekele Cotton did a great job hustling to the glass for rebounds. Lufile wisely avoid going over Scheer’s back for a rebound and kept the ball alive by tipping it to himself to start the possession. And as Early going for the tip-dunk, well, I give him props for a sense of drama even if a simpler play may have worked.
- I was sitting next to MVC coordinator of officials Eddie Jackson and he said the jump-ball call, secured by Ron Baker late in overtime after a missed free throw, was correct. Baker dove on the ball and never moved. That’s not a travel. I am curious if WSU was trying to call a timeout – it had two remaining. Smart play by Baker to stay in one place and run clock while the Bears complained. It may be awhile before Early is allowed to box out on a critical free throw. Jarmar Gulley easily pushed him under the basket and almost tipped in the miss to tie the game.
- Marshall talked a lot about being engaged on defense in recent games when the Shockers held opponents to under 35 percent shooting. All it takes is one player out of position, gambling or ball-watching to break down an entire defensive scheme. On Saturday, MSU freshman Austin Ruder got two open threes in the first half when Baker left him for just a split-second to help. Gavin Thurman got going when Early let him back into the paint and score early in the game.
- WSU blocked six shots, three by Lufile and two by Early. Early’s flurry of blocks early in the second half helped WSU cut seven points off the lead quickly by denying MSU two layups.
- How important is the home court? MSU lost at 6-10 Loyola 89-57 last week and looked nothing like Saturday’s team. The Bears are young (one senior starter and one senior reserve played Wednesday) and they appear to be on the right track. There is enough talent in the freshman and sophomore classes to envision MSU as an MVC contender in the future. “I just told our guys I’m proud of them, but they didn’t finish the deal,” MSU coach Paul Lusk said. “ “We’re not there yet. We’ve got to get stronger. We’ve got to get faster. We’ve got to continue to recruit.” Guards Austin Ruder (freshman) and Marcus Marshall (sophomore) combined to make 8 of 15 threes and score 32 points. Like WSU, the Bears are in good shape in the backcourt for the future. I really liked Ruder’s moxie. He didn’t back down from Baker at all. Marshall is also a talent, although throwing the legs out on the jump shots is a tired act and I’m glad the refs aren’t falling for it often.
- The Bears got stuck with a brutal start to the MVC season. They are playing four of five on the road with a visit from No. 6 the lone home game. They travel to Indiana State and Northern Iowa next, the toughest stops outside of Koch Arena.
- Marshall won game No. 156 at WSU to pass Gene Smithson for second on the school’s career list. That is fitting because Marshall is willing and able to embrace the MTXE generation in a way most former coaches weren’t. The NCAA probation that led to Smithson’s firing and then the firing of his son Randy made it impossible for coaches such as Fogler and Turgeon to get involved with those days. Enough time passed and athletic director Eric Sexton, who grew up with those players, was the perfect administrator to give an OK. Marshall has made liberal use of the Shockers from that era to talk to his team and the MTXE era’s reputation is no longer quite so tarnished around Koch Arena.
- I can’t find a list of WSU’s top comebacks. Two from the way-back machine stand out. In the 1981 NCAA Tournament, WSU trailed Iowa 40-25 early in the second half before winning 60-56. In 1978, DePaul led WSU 85-71 with 5:04 remaining at Levitt Arena. WSU won 95-92. Last season’s 8-points-in-40-seconds win at Illinois State seems to be in a different category.
Next up: vs. Bradley, 7 p.m. Tuesday (Cox 22)