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Wichita State beats Indiana State 66-62

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at 8:50 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at 9:42 a.m.

Correction: A previous version of this story had a missing word in this quote by Gregg Marshall: “I know that it’s not over, and we’ve got to win at least one more game.”

Two road wins in three nights tells the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference that Wichita State is serious about winning back-to-back titles. The Shockers didn’t win just any road games — they beat the Valley’s hottest team on Sunday and backed that up with Tuesday’s 66-62 win at Indiana State.

“We control our own destiny, and that’s a good position to be in,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “I know that it’s not over, and we’ve got to win at least one more game.”

Tuesday’s win maintains a one-game lead over Creighton for WSU (23-5, 12-4 MVC) with two conference games remaining. It can clinch at least a share of the title against Evansville on Feb. 27 at Koch Arena.

If that happens, the Shockers will look back on wins over Illinois State and Indiana State (16-11, 9-7) as the race’s turning point. In both, they needed to survive a tough defensive effort by the home team and grit their way to a close victory.

WSU last won back-to-back MVC titles in 1964 and 1965, a fact the players are well aware of. They are even more tenacious about defending the program’s recent stature atop the conference.

“This program, pretty much, believes that every year we’re going to be first,” senior Demetric Williams said. “That’s our ultimate goal, nothing less.”

This one didn’t come much easier than Sunday’s one-point miracle at Illinois State. WSU needed to make six straight free throws in the final 41 seconds to holf off Indiana State’s frantic attempts at its improbable comeback.

Williams made two with 41 seconds to play for a 62-55 lead. After Indiana State’s R.J. Mahurin converted a four-point play — fouled by Cleanthony Early on a three — Williams made two more with 33 seconds remaining.

Indiana State’s Dawon Cummings sank a long three to cut the lead to 64-62 with 25 seconds to play. The Shockers, after a timeout, passed to Early, who survived a trap in backcourt, drawing a foul call while he tried to elbow his way through.

“Crazy moment,” Early said. “I didn’t know what they were going to call.”

He made both free throws for a 66-62 lead with 18 seconds to play. Indiana State missed two shots in the final 12 seconds. Early, an 80-percent foul shooter, misssed two early in the game and one with 53 seconds to play. Shooting into the student section, most wearing white shirts and holding big heads of celebrities such as Taylor Swift and David Spade, he regrouped.

“I was rushing a couple and they came off my hand a little weird,” he said. “I kind of calmed down, and everybody was telling me to calm down. They see me shoot free throws all the time, so they know.”

WSU set the stage with two bursts earlier in the half. Indiana State took a 42-40 lead with a 6-0 run and got the crowd on its feet. The Shockers responded with their own 6-0 run, helped by three turnovers, to go up 46-42 with 8:19 to play.

That sequence kept WSU from falling too far back. It finally knocked the Sycamores back with another 6-0 run, this one to produce a 57-51 lead with 4:04 to play. Carl Hall’s three-point play and Malcolm Armstead’s three off a Hall’s screen gave WSU’s its biggest lead.

Early scored 19 points and Armstead added 18.

Manny Arop led the Sycamores with 17 points.

Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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