MVC Tournament semifinals

Saturday’s schedule

Wichita State 67, Missouri State 42

Indiana State 62, Southern Illinois 59

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 Thinking about the Bears

MSU coach Paul Lusk and his program offer one of the best hopes for optimism in the MVC. Despite losing leading scorer Marcus Marshall to a knee injury (Jan. 11 against WSU), the Bears are 20-11 and finished fourth in the Valley. They also dealt with the repetitive injuries of senior Keith Pickens, who is healthy. And quite the inspiration. For now.

That left MSU with one four-year senior (Nathan Scheer), one two-season senior coming off knee surgery (Jarmar Gulley) and a transfer senior (Emmanuel Addo), who is suspended. Out of that, Lusk fashioned a competitive team with lots of upside.

The Shockers will enjoy a big edge in physical ability in the lane. MSU freshman Tyler McCullough is a freshman, and he played seven minutes in Friday’s win over Illinois State. In two games against WSU, he scored 10 points and picked up eight fouls, so we know how his day will likely go. Junior Christian Kirk is too small to effectively play the post against WSU’s collection of bruisers. The Shockers out-rebounded MSU 43-25 in the March 1 meeting.

Gulley and freshman Austin Ruder are the threats. Gulley, a second-team All-MVC pick, is one of the few MVC players who can do the things WSU’s Cleanthony Early can do, although he’s smaller and not as accurate from long range.

Ruder makes 42.3 percent of his threes and burned the Shockers in Springfield for five threes, many while being guarded by Ron Baker. Baker made Ruder a personal project in the rematch and he scored two points. Gulley scored 15 points in that 68-45 loss at Koch Arena and no other Bear reached double figures. If Ruder or Ron Mvouika can’t offer a second (or third) scoring option, MSU will struggle.

Mvouika is MSU’s microwave off the bench. He makes 43.9 percent of his threes. He played four minutes in the first meeting and his role increased after Marshall’s injury.

MSU makes 36.3 percent of its threes, second in the MVC. It’s not a particularly good perimeter defense team. In 18 MVC games, opponents made 37 percent of their threes.