CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Toure Murry ranks Wednesday’s performance among his top three at Wichita State. The first two came during his freshman season, when the Shockers didn’t play pressure-packed games with implications beyond Sedgwick County.
Murry picked a perfect time to come up big again. He scored 24 points, 17 in the second half, to help WSU rally past Northern Iowa 71-68 at the McLeod Center on Wednesday.
“Just stepping up and making big shots and being confident,” he said. “The inside-out helped a lot. Those guys were keying in on (Garrett) Stutz and Carl (Hall) and I felt my one-and-one play could really come into the game and I could get my shot off.”
The Shockers (16-3, 7-1 Missouri Valley Conference) picked up a win that will help their power rating (RPI) - UNI entered the game No. 30, two spots ahead of WSU. The Shockers also kept pace with Creighton atop the MVC by improving to 5-0 in conference road games. This game meant much to the greater goals of winning the MVC title and making the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers stated their case by scoring on seven of their final eight possessions and four straight to close out the Panthers (13-7, 3-5). WSU made 12 of 13 free throws in the second half, 11 straight in the final 2:07.
Murry matched his career high by making 8 of 10 shots and didn’t commit a turnover while grabbing three steals. Stutz scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
“That’s a gutty win for a bunch of guys that seem to do that on the road,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s mental toughness, and hopefully some of that is gained from being in our program and battling every day in practice.”
The Shockers threw a zone defense at UNI in the second half that sealed off driving lanes and disrupted UNI’s flow. WSU’s press also helped cool off the Panthers. UNI made 4 of 11 three-pointers in the first half and 2 of 9 in the second.
“We forced them to take tough shots they didn’t want to take,” WSU guard Joe Ragland said.
Murry’s star turn led WSU back from a deficit that reached eight points. The Panthers led 56-48 with 9:24 remaining on Seth Tuttle’s layup.Their lead was 64-59 with 4:21 to play after Jake Koch got loose against the WSU zone for a baseline jumper.
Then Murry went to work.
He made a long jumper to cut the lead to 64-61. A layup by Hall, open when Stutz drew a double team, cut UNI’s lead to 64-63. Murry intercepted a pass by Anthony James and drew a foul. His free throws gave WSU a 65-64 lead with 1:50 remaining. WSU took the lead for good when Murry took a pass from Stutz in the lane and flipped in an over-the-shoulder shot over Koch for a 67-66 lead. He finished off the Panthers by lofting a soft shot over a defender for a 71-68 lead with 12 seconds remaining. UNI’s Marc Sonnen missed an off-balance three in the final seconds.
“Tonight was Toure’s night,” Ragland said. “I’m guessing fans want to expect this every game from him, and it just doesn’t happen like that in our league. He really stepped up and willed us to the victory.”
The Shockers celebrated a little more than after some road victories. Throughout the comeback, they showed more emotion than normal, with Murry pounding his chest and Ragland clapping and hollering.
“If we’re trying to accomplish the goal we want, we’ve got to win these games,” Ragland said. “Backs against the wall. They played better than us the first half. We just felt like we had to put our hearts into it.”
WSU closed the first half on a 9-3 run to go up 32-30. Down 27-23, Stutz scored on back-to-back possessions. Demetric Williams made two free throws to give WSU a 29-27 lead. UNI’s Matt Morrison made a three to regain the lead. After a long UNI possession ended with a missed shot, Murry sank a three in the final second to put the Shockers up at halftime.
Stutz scored 11 points in the first half by making 5 of 8 shots. Hall and Murry each added seven.
Anthony James led UNI with 16 points.