TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — After a 64-62 loss at Southern Illinois, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall figured basketball fortunes owed his team a friendly whistle in a close game. Twelve days later, the Shockers are the ones on the right side of a game that resulted in the Missouri Valley Confererence reprimanding officials.
On Monday, the MVC announced it was disciplining officials David Hall, Gerry Pollard and Paul Janssen for a mistake in WSU’s 68-67 win at Illinois State on Sunday. With 40 seconds to play, the crew called a Flagrant 1 personal foul on Jackie Carmichael, after he kicked WSU’s Tekele Cotton while rebounding. WSU’s Cleanthony Early shot the foul shots, making both, to start an 8-0 run that won the game.
Cotton, according to the MVC’s statement, should have shot the free throws. That escaped the attention of everyone except Illinois State coach Dan Muller, who complained bitterly. Early entered the game making 80.9 percent from the line; Cotton 58.6 percent.
Marshall said he figured the call on Carmichael was a technical foul and allowed him to choose a shooter. Officials didn’t tell him differently. Before Early shot, Illinois State’s Johnny Hill made two free throws for a 67-60 lead.
“I just assumed it was a technical foul and sent our best percentage free throw shooter to the line,” he said. “If Tekele was the guy that got kicked, then call it when he got kicked and then he goes to the line and they don’t get their two free throws.”
The MVC statement said the discipline would be handled internally. After the SIU loss, the MVC disciplined official Rick Randall for his performance, one that ended with a controversial goal-tending call that gave the Salukis the winning points.
Against that background drama, a happy group of coaches, players and fans gathered Monday afternoon at Indiana State’s practice gym. They rehashed Sunday’s game, shook their heads at Carmichael’s blunder and smiled at the improbability of it all. While the players stretched, coaches teased them for their poor shooting in the first half, joking that Illinois State sent a bill for a shattered backboard. Marshall called radio broadcaster Mike Kennedy off the sidelines to educate the Shockers on the fact they last won back-to-back MVC titles in 1964 and 1965. WSU holds a one-game lead over Creighton with three to play and the Shockers can see the finish line.
Should WSU (22-5, 11-4 MVC) defeat Indiana State (16-10, 9-6) on Tuesday, it could clinch a share of the title on Feb. 27 against Evansville at home.
“We’re trying to use everything to fuel us,” Early said. “Whether it’s (Tuesday) being like a championship game, or the three losses we had or the injuries we had.”
Even with the momentum of Sunday’s comeback might not matter against Indiana State, which handled WSU 68-55 on Jan. 29, starting a three-game slide. The Sycamores out-worked and out-hustled the Shockers, a treatment that made an impression. Indiana State snapped WSU’s 19-game win streak at home by shooting 53.3 percent from the field, the only opponent this season to break 50 percent. It held WSU to a season-low 27.1 percent shooting, switching defenses to keep the Shockers uncomfortable and using a zone to keep the ball from the post players.
“They punched us in the mouth and we hadn’t been punched in the mouth like that at home, and we didn’t react to it very well,” Marshall said. “We could not recover during that span of 40 minutes. And any time we got something going in our favor, we would do something silly or inopportune to give them back their cushion.”
Ar mstead honored — WSU senior Malcolm Armstead earned MVC newcomer of the week honors.
In wins over Drake and Illinois State, Armstead averaged 15 points and 4.5 rebounds, making 11 of 23 shots and 7 of 13 field goals. He scored 18 points, adding six rebounds and six assists, in Sunday’s 68-67 win at Illinois State.
Armstead won the honor for a second time this season.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott was named player of the week, for the seventh time this season, after he surpassed 2,000 career points. He enters Tuesday’s game against Southern Illinois with 2,001 points, 15th in MVC history.