Wichita St. 60, No. 20 N. Iowa 51
Beating Texas Tech at home was big for Wichita State. A second win over a ranked team meant even more.
JT Durley had 19 points, Graham Hatch added 14 and Wichita State knocked off No. 20 Northern Iowa 60-51 Tuesday night to end the nation's second-longest winning streak at 15 games.
When the Shockers beat then-No. 16 Texas Tech on Dec. 19, it was an impressive step, a resume-builder during a terrific start to the season. Beating Northern Iowa gave the Shockers an added bonus: It got them back into a Missouri Valley Conference race the Panthers appeared to be running away with.
``It's a big confidence booster,'' said Durley, who hit all six of his free throws in the second half. ``We're back in the race.''
Wichita State (17-3, 6-2 Missouri Valley) went after Northern Iowa at both ends in a solid first half and made up for a 3-for-18 night from 3-point range with scrappiness and stingy perimeter defense. The Shockers are off to their best start since opening 18-3 in 2004-05 and haven't lost in 12 games at Charles Koch Arena.
Hannah had eight of Wichita State's 15 assists - on 22 field goals - and Hatch, a 6-foot-4 guard, had eight rebounds to lead the Shockers in what felt like a must-win game.
``If they win here and they're three games ahead and we still have to go to their place, it's basically over,'' Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. ``That's what I told the team.''
Northern Iowa (16-2, 7-1) had a miserable first half at both ends to trail by 12 at halftime, made several runs in the second half, but couldn't make it all the way back to spoil the second ranking in school history.
The Panthers had trouble getting the ball inside early and shot 2 for 13 from 3-point range overall to find themselves in a much tighter race than expected after their best start since 1963-64.
Jordan Eglseder led Northern Iowa with 14 points and Adam Koch and Kwadzo Ahelegbe added 11 each.
``Wichita State did a very good job defensively,'' Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. ``They guarded us well in the first half and made things tough for us.''
After struggling throughout the first half, Northern Iowa didn't need long to get most of its double-digit deficit back.
The Panthers all but ignored Eglseder in the first half, but worked the ball into the big senior on three of their first four possessions of the second, hitting five straight shots in a 10-2 run.
In three minutes, the lead was down to two.
Wichita State made sure the Panthers didn't make it all the way back.
The Shockers didn't score until Gabe Blair dropped in a midrange jumper at 15:15, but used a steal by Hannah and a fastbreak layup by David Kyles to get themselves and the crowd back into it. Wichita State held Northern Iowa scoreless over its next six possessions to push the lead to seven, then went on another mini run to go up 48-39 on Hatch's fastbreak layup with just under 4 minutes left.
Northern Iowa tried to mount another run, but Wichita State made 13 of 17 free throws to seal it after failing to get to the line in the first half - not much of a surprise for a team that shoots 75 percent from the line on the season.
``I have great confidence in myself,'' said Hannah, the nation's leading free-throw shooter at 96 percent. ``And I have great confidence in my teammates.''
The Shockers went right at the Missouri Valley's best defense early, working the ball into the post despite the presence of Eglseder, a mammoth 7-footer.
The Shockers didn't hesitate in taking the ball to the rim and used nifty passing between post players to set up layups and dunks when the Panthers collapsed. Wichita State's inside success opened up the perimeter and the Shockers hit from there, too, opening the game 10 for 17 from the floor - despite a couple of early jittery airballs - to go up 22-9.
Wichita State was just as aggressive on defense, smothering Northern Iowa's post players and cutting off drives while still getting out to the perimeter shooters.
Northern Iowa shot 8 of 25, missed all seven of its 3-point attempts and had a season-low 17 points at halftime.
``We knew it was going to be a tough environment and got in a bit of a hole in that first half,'' Koch said. ``It's tough to do that and come back against a team like this.''