No. 15 Wichita State falls in MVC tournament semis
Wichita State has a nine-game winning streak and two eight-game runs on their resume this season. So there is plenty of evidence that the Shockers can bounce back from a loss.
Now they just need the chance.
The No. 15 Shockers (27-5) were beaten by Illinois State 65-64 on Saturday in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. After a fine regular season, Wichita State now must wait for an invitation to the NCAA tournament.
Shockers coach Gregg Marshall feels his team is ready for that challenge.
''I don't think we're going to do too much fixing,'' Marshall said. ''We're 27-5. We're going to play in the NCAA tournament. (I'm) looking forward to that. On a neutral floor. I feel like we've got just a good of a shot, if not better, than we did today.''
Wichita State was led by Joe Ragland, who scored 17 points. Toure' Murry added 15, and Ben Smith 14 had for the Shockers, who couldn't hold an eight-point, halftime advantage.
Tyler Brown of Illinois State (20-12) led all scorers with 25 points. Jackie Carmichael has his 13th double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The top-seeded Shockers captured the regular-season title by going 16-2 in conference play, including two wins over the Redbirds. But Illinois State held the Shockers, who average 78.1 points per game, in the 60s all three times.
''We don't look at the score because we won both games,'' Ragland said. ''Athletic-wise, they're similar to us. Carmichael does a real good job of blocking shots or contesting shots that we normally make, and we didn't make them today. They played a hell of a game.''
After trailing by four points early, the Shockers used a 14-0 run to take a 21-11 lead. They stayed ahead until Nic Moore drained a 3-pointer with 8:34 left to give the Redbirds a 56-55 edge.
The game went back and forth after that until Illinois State took the lead for good at 65-64 on two free throws by Tyler Brown with 6 seconds left.
Murry missed a jumper from just inside the arc with 2 seconds remaining. The Shockers got one more chance when the ball went out of bounce off the Redbirds, but leading-scorer Garrett Stutz's attempted game-winning shot fell short.
''We kept trying to play through the adversity. We were playing, and we just didn't get it done,'' said Stutz, who was in foul trouble and finished with six points. He was even given a rare technical foul.
''It's uncharacteristic of Garrett to get a technical foul,'' Marshall said.'' I think it's the first of his career. It didn't seem like they wanted to see him play too much.''
Wichita State will need to have Stutz at his best if the Shockers hope to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Had the Shockers won the conference tournament, they likely would have received no worse than a No. 4 seed. Now they could be facing a No. 7 or 8 seeding, and a potential matchup against a No. 1 or 2 seed in the second round if they advance.
''It won't be as good,'' Marshall said of the seeding. ''It depends on what happens in the coming weeks and days with the other tournaments.''
A regular-season championship in the Missouri Valley is not an automatic ticket to the NCAA tournament, but given the Shockers' impressive RPI and national ranking, Marshall is confident his team will earn a spot in the field.
''I'm not worried,'' he said Saturday. ''Are you worried? You shouldn't be. Sleep well tonight.''