Wichita State opened Missouri Valley play with a tough test against Indiana State, defeating the Sycamores 80-72. Without Shaq Morris, who was out for the second game with a leg injury, the Shockers struggled at times in the first half, allowing the Sycamores to score 38 points on 43% shooting. Wichita State’s offense and defense improved just enough in the second half to earn its first conference victory.
The Shockers were led by the trio of Darral Willis, Markis McDuffie, and Landry Shamet, who each played at least 32 minutes and scored in double digits. Willis shot the ball 19 times and finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, earning his second double-double of the season. Brenton Scott of Indiana State struggled from the field but ended up with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
— Dave Wegiel Photo (@pinolaphoto) December 29, 2016
The Shockers did not play their best game of basketball in this one but did just enough to secure a victory. They faced adversity on the road against a conference foe and came away with a win. The margin of victory doesn’t matter in road games in conference – a win is a win. Well done.
McDuffie and Shamet played extremely well for the second game in a row. Both are athletically gifted and quite versatile on the basketball court. Not only that, but they are highly entertaining to watch. Shamet’s three-point shot seemed flat early in the season, but over the past two games, his shot has noticeably improved with him making 8 of 15 threes.
The Shockers did not have their best game of the year, but they did do many things right. They shot the ball well, especially in the second half, out-rebounded the Sycamores 47-30, passed the ball well with 16 assists and only 11 turnovers, snagged 5 steals, and had 6 blocks.
— Tribune-Star Sports (@tribstarsports) December 29, 2016
Wichita State seemed out of sync in the first half, and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was because the game was the MVC opener. Or a road game. Or that Morris was out with an injury. Whatever the reason, the Shockers’ defense was lacking, allowing the Sycamores to score almost at will in the first half.
Three-point shooting could have cost the Shockers this game. Wichita State made only 4 of 18 threes while allowing Indiana State to shoot 42% on 10 of 24 three-point shots. That’s an 18 point advantage for ISU. In their last 3 games, the Shockers have allowed their opponents to make 34 of 76 three-pointers (45%). That’s not good and needs to be fixed ASAP.
— Josh Betts (@BettsSportsBeat) December 29, 2016
Player of the Game
Darral Willis was an unstoppable force for the Shockers, finishing the game with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. His jumper was money. He attacked the rim with strength and agility. He shot the ball well from the free-throw line. In short, he looked like an NBA All-Star. It blows my mind that this is his first year in a Wichita State uniform. Not only has he played great this season, but he’s also been highly consistent. It seems like every game he’s one of the Shockers’ leading scorers. In fact, Willis has scored in double digits in 7 of the last 8 games. He is blossoming before our eyes, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Tweet of the Game
— Josh Howell (@JoshTHowell) December 29, 2016
One could argue that the Shockers’ rebounding effort won them this game. One would probably be right.
One Valley game down, seventeen to go. The Shockers next face the Bradley Braves in Wichita on New Year’s Day. Hopefully, the Shockers have a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration, as the only way they’ll lose to the 251st KenPom-ranked Braves is if they’re all wildly hungover.