In the battle for first place in the Missouri Valley, Illinois State (14-4, 6-0) proved victorious at home, defeating Wichita State (15-4, 5-1) 76-62. The Shockers struggled offensively against the Redbirds’ topnotch defense, making only 35% of their shots and 33% of their 3-pointers. With the loss, Wichita State falls out of first place in the Valley for the first time since 2013.
The Shockers were led by Landry Shamet, Darral Willis, and Markis McDuffie, with all 3 scoring in double figures. McDuffie had the best run of any WSU player in the game, scoring 8 straight points (including 2 3-pointers) in the first 2 minutes and 8 seconds of the second half. The Redbirds featured 5 players in double figures, including MiKyle McIntosh, who led all scorers with 20 points.
Yikes! The game got away from the Shockers during the last 4 minutes, but there was still good in this one. The Shockers have made a habit of trailing tough opponents by several baskets at halftime, but they also have made a habit of fighting back in these games. This was no exception. Wichita State trailed by 9 at halftime, but the Shockers came out fighting in the second half, cutting Illinois State’s lead to 1. They never quite grabbed the lead in the second half, but they showed something. These Shockers are young, talented, and wildly inconsistent, but they also have heart and a fighter’s mentality.
If you had told me before the game that the Shockers would win the rebounding battle AND the turnover margin, I would’ve thought the Shockers would win. Wichita State out-rebounded Illinois State 35-34 (17-7 with offensive rebounds) and committed fewer turnovers (13-14). However, the Shockers still lost by 14. They did some good things in the game, but shooting and defending absolutely killed them.
— Evan Pflugradt (@EvPflu) January 15, 2017
There’s much to discuss in this section, so I’ll try not to ramble as much as normal. The Shockers played poorly in many areas. They struggled against the Redbirds’ zone defense, shooting only 35% from the field. The Shockers spent most of the game on the perimeter, settling for 3-point attempts and long jumpers. If they could have attacked the rim with more success, Illinois State’s defense would have collapsed, allowing for more open 3-point attempts.
Wichita State was ineffective on offense and even more so on defense. The Redbirds drove the lane on offense, often scoring (54% for all shots) and/or grabbing a foul. Partly because of this, WSU’s perimeter defense was nonexistent at times. I lost track of how many wide-open 3-point attempts the Redbirds had. If you give players enough wide-open looks, they’ll knock plenty of them down. That’s exactly what happened – the Redbirds made 46% of their 3s (10 of 22). The Shockers have struggled at times this season guarding the 3-point line, and this game was no exception. It’s easier said than done, but Wichita State must improve its defense.
Wichita State cut it to 56-53, but Paris Lee hit a 3 to rebuild the ISU lead.
With help from a HARD Phil Fayne screen on Conner Frankamp. pic.twitter.com/z78j09hdn8
— Dan Molloy (@DanMolloyTV) January 15, 2017
The Shockers fell to a good team on the road. There’s no shame in that. It happens, even in the best of conferences. However, Wichita State is not in a good conference. It’s in the MVC, a league that’s probably now a one-bid league. With losses to Louisville, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, and Illinois State, the Shockers have shot themselves in the foot in trying to secure an at-large birth to the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State’s best win to date is against Oklahoma, a team that currently has a losing record.
It’s not completely impossible for the Shockers to grab an at-large bid, but it’s highly unlikely. Even if the Shockers somehow win the rest of their games in the regular season and lose in the MVC Tournament championship game, they would probably be a bubble team. Anything can happen, but more likely than that, the Shockers HAVE to win Arch Madness if they want to go dancing this year. The regular season is now meaningless. Thanks for nothing, Missouri Valley.
Player of the Game
Darral Willis. Defensively, he was pretty so-so, but offensively, he was terrific. His jump shot is a thing of beauty, and he is extremely gifted when he gets the ball under the basket. He needs to do a better job at not fouling, and he definitely needs to keep improving on defense. That being said, he was a bright spot for the Shockers on a dark evening, ending up with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block.
Tweet of the Game
That’s some serious dedication right there. It’s just a shame the Shockers lost.
The Shockers have 12 regular season games left, but it’s one game at a time. Wichita State stays on the road to face 10-9 Evansville on Tuesday. The Purple Aces have a win over 11-5 Boise State, a 31 point loss to Louisville, and a handful of losses to bad teams. Evansville is ranked 154 on KenPom. WSU is ranked 27. After losing to the Redbirds, expect an impressive win for the Shockers against the Purple Aces.