Illinois State loses 68-55 to No. 19 Wichita State

Illinois State’s last home game of the season wasn’t a typical

Senior Day. The Redbirds don’t have a senior on the roster so there

wasn’t much in the way of pregame festivities.

Even though Illinois State fell short of an upset against No. 19

Wichita State, falling 68-55 on Wednesday night, Redbirds coach Tim

Jankovich was encouraged.

His team made the Shockers (25-4, 15-2) sweat until the final

minutes before they clinched the Missouri Valley Conference

championship with the win.

”There’s no happiness in losing to anyone, anywhere, any time

and there are no moral victories here. But, what I do feel good

about, looking at our guys and how young we are. They’re playing in

a high-level game like this, they don’t have a lot of these,”

Jankovich said. ”They didn’t handle it great and still had a

chance. What I take from it is the long run and looking at these

guys as they mature. I’ve been excited about them the whole time.

We have a long way to go with these guys, they’re young, we’re

going to have them for years to come.”

Joe Ragland led the way for the Shockers, scoring 14 points. The

6-foot guard, one of four senior starters, had four 3-pointers for

Wichita State, which made 10 of 23 shots from beyond the arc

against the Redbirds (17-12, 8-9), who dropped to 0-3 against

ranked teams this season and have lost 24 straight to Top 25 teams,

the last win coming at No. 14 Iowa in 1987.

The Shockers have won seven straight and 15 out of its last 16

games. They won their seventh Missouri Valley title and first since

2006. The 15 conference wins are the most for the Shockers since

they went 17-1 in winning the MVC in 1982-83.

”Just really proud of the effort tonight. Another quality road

win against a good team to clinch the regular-season championship

outright,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. ”Proud of our

seniors, proud of the guys that have come behind those seniors and

helped us to this point. The good news is I think this is possibly

the beginning because the way we’re playing right now, anything’s

possible.”

Wichita State clinched a share of the title with its win against

Missouri State on Feb. 15. But winning it outright has been a

priority.

”That was definitely important, that was our goal,” Ragland

said. ”You know, this season we felt we had the talent and we

stressed hard work. Our guys worked hard all summer, we believed we

could win, we just had to put the work in. Glad to see the hard

work pay off.”

Garrett Stutz scored 12 points to go along with 14 rebounds for

the Shockers. Ben Smith and Demetric Williams added 11 points

apiece for Wichita State. Williams did all his scoring in the first

half.

”Arguably, you can make a case (that’s) the best team we’ve

played since we’ve been here in five years,” Jankovich said.

”It’s hard to quantify that, but when you look at the pieces they

have: A 7-foot center (Stutz) that potentially could get drafted,

five senior guards and a very good, athletic front line, a senior

and a junior. The age, the experience, the talent, well-coached,

this is a great basketball team.”

Bryant Allen led Illinois State with 17 points.

Wichita State jumped to a 15-4 lead, making its first six shots.

Toure Murry, Ragland and Williams all hit 3-pointers in that

opening stretch to help the Shockers build an early cushion.

Illinois State closed to 24-20 after a 3-pointer by Allen, but

the Shockers got a tip-in bucket by Tekele Cotton and eight

straight points by Williams to close the first half on a 10-2 run

to enter the locker room with a 34-22 lead.

WSU held the Redbirds scoreless for the final 3:27 of the first

half.

”I could feel like there’s a chance we could win this game,”

Jankovich said. ”We got a little momentum, we’re cutting it down,

we need one bucket and a stop and it could change the whole thing.

It could turn and put the pressure back on them. A couple times I

think we’d score, then boom, they’d score right back and we

couldn’t cut into it, or when we really needed it, they would hit

it and then we’d miss and we couldn’t come back.”

Illinois State got as close as seven points early in the second

half, but the Shockers went on a 10-1 run, highlighted by

back-to-back dunks by Stutz and Kyles then back-to-back 3-pointers

from Ragland and Smith to go ahead 57-40 with 9:41 remaining.

Illinois State wouldn’t go away. The Redbirds cut the Wichita

State lead to nine on a jumper by Allen to make it 62-53 with 5:08

left, but that’s as close as they would get.

Wichita State shot 52 percent (14 for 27) from the floor in the

first half and 47 percent (26 for 55) overall.

”We tried to start off pretty well. We started pretty well the

last time we played them and they came back and made it a game,”

Ragland said of the Shockers’ 65-62 win over Illinois State on Jan.

10. ”When we were up that much, we tried not to let it get to our

heads and think they’re just going to roll over. Those guys are

tough and they’ve got a lot of talent over there and we knew it was

just going to be a 40-minute war and we had to execute, stop them

and play great defense.”

Defensively, the Shockers limited the Redbirds to 37 percent

shooting and held Illinois State’s Jackie Carmichael, who averages

13.8 points, to six points on 2 of 9 shooting.