Shocker fans thrilled with WSU’s conference titleBy Fred Mann
The Wichita Eagle
The Shocker offense was flowing, and so were the taps at Larry Bud’s Bar & Grill in northeast Wichita.
The popular pub, a gathering spot for televised Wichita State basketball games, was filled on Wednesday night nearly to capacity with fans anticipating a Shocker win over Illinois State on the road, and an outright Missouri Valley Conference championship.
WSU jumped to a 10-2 lead, led by 12 at halftime, held the Redbirds at bay in the second half, and won by 13, 68-55.
The crowd clapped and cheered as WSU ran out the final 30 seconds to claim their first outright MVC title since 2006.
“I just thought it was an awesome game,” said Tim Hageman, a Shocker grad who sat a table with his wife, Leah, and two KU fans, Dan and Sharon Holladay, who were able to watch the Jayhawks play Texas A&M on whichever of the 30 screens weren’t showing the Shocker game.
“I really expected it would be a closer game and they just kept control of it the whole game,” Hageman said.
Although WSU entered the game assured of at least a tie for the conference title, winning it outright over second-place Creighton was important to fans at Larry Bud’s.
“It shows everybody in the Missouri Valley that they were the No. 1 team,” Hageman said.
“We don’t want to share it,” said Jay Ogden, another WSU grad who had grabbed a front-row seat with some buddies an hour before tipoff. “And it’s Creighton, too.”
The first Shocker three-pointer set off the first cheer in the bar, and fans felt good as WSU maintained a lead throughout the first half.
They groaned and pounded tables as easy shots missed.
They were frustrated at times.
“Let’s get a score!” one fans shouted during a Shocker offensive lull.
They moaned as WSU’s giant center Garrett Stutz missed close shots that he usually makes.
They jeered and booed as officials whistled fouls against WSU.
The erupted with glee on a Shocker steal and slam dunk.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Shockers Joe Ragland and Ben Smith pushed the WSU lead to 17 points midway through the second half and made fans even more comfortable.
When one of the Redbirds made a couple of jumpers to close the gap to nine points, someone shouted, “That guy’s killing us!”
After a Shocker and a Redbird collided under the Illinois State basket and crumpled to the court, one fan wondered what the two players were doing on the floor.
“You have to defend him, not date him!” he advised the Shocker.
When Stutz followed a missed shot by slamming home the rebound, a fan shouted, “Yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
At halftime, some worried that Illinois State might rally as it did in the second half of the first game between the two teams in Wichita. The Shockers held on to narrowly win that game.
But there was no serious Redbird rally.
The best call of the night came from Jordan Parkhurst, a Shocker grad who sat at a table against a wall with three other friends.
Parkhurst expected an easy game.
“We’re good on the road and we’re good at home,” he said. “So I don’t ever worry a lot.”Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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