Wichita Shockers take down Illinois State in MVC Tournament
With an NCAA-leading 30 wins and a championship in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, the Wichita State Shockers are on a firm foundation.
The second-seeded Shockers locked up a bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday with a dominant 71-51 victory over No. 1 Illinois State in the MVC Tournament championship game at Scottrade Center.
Wichita State (30-4) won the tournament for the first time since 2014 and put the Redbirds (27-6) into anxiety mode as they wait a week to learn their postseason fate. Illinois State hasn’t won the MVC Tournament since 1998, which also was the last time it qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought we played very well against a very good team,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “I thought it was a very thorough performance. We defended well. We made our free throws. We got the ball inside. We rebounded well. We shot it well. So that results in a 20-point win, and that’s hard to do against that team.”
Shockers junior guard Conner Frankamp led all scorers with 19 points and made three 3-pointers to earn Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. Sophomore Markis McDuffie had 16 points and was 11-for-11 from the free-throw line, while freshman Landry Shamet dropped in 14 points and made the all-tournament team.
Wichita State has won 15 in a row since losing to Illinois State 76-72 on Jan. 14.
“I think that kind of woke us up after losing to Illinois State,” Frankamp said. “And then after that loss, we got right back to it and started working extremely hard and trying to fix anything that was going wrong with the team. We did a great job of doing that, and like I said, this team came together really well, and it worked out well for us.”
Illinois State made thirteen 3-pointers in its 63-50 victory over Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the semifinals Saturday. Twenty-four hours later, the Redbirds had lost their shooting touch from beyond the arc. They were 6-for-28 against Wichita State and finished at 29 percent overall (17-for-58).
Senior Paris Lee led the Redbirds with 18 points. Junior MiKyle McIntosh had 16 points.
“We picked a bad day to have a bad day, especially shooting the ball. Certainly, part of it was their defense, but part of it was us,” said Illinois State coach Dan Muller, whose club fell behind for good just 43 seconds into the contest.
“I could not be more proud of these guys, (how they) continued to fight and stay together. We’re looking forward to playing again this year. We’re hopeful. But we just got beat by a good team today. They played better than us.”
Wichita State was 26-for-37 from the foul line and shot 31 free throws in the second half as Illinois State lost 6-foot-7 McIntosh, 6-9 sophomore Phil Fayne and 6-8 senior Deontae Hawkins to fouls.
“If you get your bigs in foul trouble against this team and you don’t have the depth with the bigs, you’re in trouble,” Muller said. “Not to say we couldn’t have snapped out of it and recovered, but we didn’t.”
Muller didn’t seem optimistic about the Redbirds’ chances to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, particularly with how his team played Sunday.
Illinois State has has nonconference losses against Murray State (16-17), TCU (17-14) and Tulsa (14-15). It also suffered a home defeat against San Francisco (20-12).
“If they go based on one game they saw ... (They) probably don’t watch as many games of ours as they watch other teams, but hopefully they’ll look at the full body of work we have,” Muller said. “Obviously, we want to be in.
“I think we should be in. I think we’re good enough. But it’s out of our control at this point.”
Wichita State’s position is so very different. Marshall, whose name will be linked with the opening at the University of Missouri after Kim Anderson was fired Sunday, said the Shockers have a team as talented as the one that reached the Final Four in 2014. That year, Wichita State was 35-0 until falling 78-76 to Kentucky on the same Scottrade Center floor.
“We had an undefeated team and we have a team that went to the Final Four,” Marshall said. “This team’s comparable. It really is. We’ve got so many weapons defensively. We play hard (and) try to play smart. ...We’re very deep, pretty big, athletic, skilled, and talented. It’s a good formula.”
Joining Frankamp and Shamet on the all-tournament team were Illinois State’s Lee, Missouri State’s Alize Johnson and Evansville’s Jaylon Brown.