The Shockers are still undefeated in the United States. Unfortunately, this is a meaningless stat to the NCAA, as Wichita State drops a heart-breaker to Michigan State, 77-72, in their final game in the Bahamas. The Shockers end up with a 1-2 record in Battle 4 Atlantis and fall to 5-2 on the season.
The Michigan State Spartans dominated for most of the game, leading by 10 at halftime and by 18 with 11:53 left in the game. The Shockers looked over-matched at times and struggled defensively and shooting the ball. Then, the comeback began. The Shockers started playing with intensity and their pressure defense came alive, creating turnovers, which, in turn, created offense. Within a matter of minutes, WSU had cut Michigan State’s lead down to 1. Both teams fought back and forth for the final 4 minutes of the game, and despite two good looks by Markis McDuffie and Daishon Smith to tie the game, the Shockers were never able to wrestle the lead from the Spartans.
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges led all scorers with 21, with Darral Willis leading the Shockers with 16. WSU’s other top scorers all came off the bench: Smith (13), Rauno Nurger (12), and McDuffie (10). Although the Shockers out-rebounded the Spartans by 1, Michigan State made 6 more three-pointers, which ended up being the difference in the game.
For most of the game, it looked like Wichita State was playing Louisville again, struggling to score the ball and committing a plethora of mistakes on defense. The good news was, just like against Louisville, these Shockers never gave up and valiantly fought back. The intensity this team showed the final 8 minutes was fantastic. WSU created turnovers and looked like a legitimate top 25 team in America. If the Shockers can play like this every minute of every game this season, not only will they make the NCAA Tournament, but they will reach the Sweet Sixteen and possibly beyond.
Wichita State’s bench was sensational, outscoring the starters, 57-15. Willis, Smith, Nurger, and McDuffie played great and will merit more playing time going forward. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see one or more of these young men starting for this team in the near future.
Despite the loss, the Shockers ended up with some good stats for the game. WSU had 16 offensive rebounds, 8 assists, and only 7 turnovers. If it weren’t for the poor shooting, the Shockers would’ve been victorious.
The Shockers struggled for the majority of the game. They shot the ball poorly, had a stagnant offense, and often left Michigan State’s shooters wide open on the perimeter, which allowed the Spartans to make 11 of 25 three-pointers. Not good.
Speaking of not good, the Shockers had another poor shooting day, making only 22.7% of their three-pointers and 35.5% from the field. They also allowed the Spartans to accumulate 20 steals for the game. Even with the back-to-back losses, this is still a talented Wichita State team. The offense and defense need some improvement, but the pieces are there for another successful season.
Austin Reaves re-injured his right shoulder late in the second half. Any missed time by him would be a huge setback for WSU.
Player of the Game
Darral Willis had a magnificent performance and is today’s player of the game. He played with energy and often carried WSU. There were two times in the game when Willis missed a shot down low, grabbed the offensive rebound, and put it back for the lay-up. That shows hustle, effort, and persistence. After his stellar play of late, he definitely deserves more minutes going forward.
There were several turning points in this one, but the final one was the most important. With a few seconds to play, Wichita State was down by 3 and had the ball. After a timeout, Smith received the pass, drove to the top of the key, and shot a deep three. Had this shot gone in, the Shockers would’ve tied the game and perhaps gone to overtime. However, Smith missed and Michigan State grabbed the rebound, effectively ending the game. Smith possibly could have shot a closer one or passed it off, but it still was a good look that almost went in.
Tweet of the Game
Wichita State's starting five finished with 15 points, tied for the third-fewest by any team in a game this season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 25, 2016
To put it bluntly, this was not a good game for WSU’s starters. Thankfully, it’s a long season, and these hard-working Shockers will only improve.
The Shockers will fly back to the U.S. and will then prepare to face Southern Nazarene on Tuesday. When the schedule first came out, it was disappointing to see this game on it. But now, it couldn’t come at a better time. After back-to-back losses to ranked teams, this team needs an easy win and a confidence booster. Southern Nazarene is the perfect team for that.