SPRINGFIELD, Mo. No. 6 Wichita State played four road games before Saturdays game at Missouri State. It took about 10 minutes for the Bears and their fans to show the Shockers how a real road game feels.
The home team plays above its head, making shots at a rate not normal. Its defense is tougher and its rebounders stronger. And every good play feeds the crowd and the fans send that energy back to the players. Missouri State lived that life well into the second half.
Through it all, the Shockers kept working. They may have looked rattled a times, but they never caved in. Down 19 points in the second half, they rallied with a full-court press that changed the complexion of the game and a parade of foul shots to win 72-69 in overtime at JQH Arena.
It didnt look good, WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. We knew these games were going to happen. In the end, we just made one more play.
WSU (17-0, 4-0 Missouri Valley Conference) outscored MSU 8-5 in overtime with guard Fred VanVleet scoring seven of those points. His late-game work started in regulation, when his three-point play made it 64-63 with 47.7 seconds to play. He made a foul shot to send the game to overtime.
He missed the second, but didnt let that bother him in overtime.
You get two more, so think about it that way, he said. Guys count on me to be clutch in those situations. I made enough to win and thats what we did tonight. Champions find ways to win.
In overtime, VanVleet gave WSU its first lead since the first half with two foul shots. He slithered past MSU center Tyler McCullough for a layup and a 68-66 lead. After MSUs Austin Ruder missed a long three, VanVleet made one of two free throws with 18.3 seconds to play for a 69-66 lead.
MSUs Marcus Marshall quickly responded with a floater in the lane to cut the lead to 69-68 with 11 seconds to play. VanVleet made two free throws with 8.8 seconds to play for a 71-68 lead.
Tekele Cotton purposefully fouled MSUs Devon Thomas, who made the first and missed the second. MSUs Jarmar Gulley tipped the ball,but it bounced off. WSUs Ron Baker dived on the floor for the loose ball and the jump ball went to the Shockers. WSUs Cleanthony Early made one of two foul shots with 1.4 seconds to play.
After Baker dived to knock a pass out of bounds at halfcourt, Early picked off the inbound pass to end the game. The crowd of 10,776, third-largest in arena history, went home disappointed. So did the Bears, who put the seasons biggest scare into the Shockers.
Theyre down, MSU coach Paul Lusk said. Theyre hurting. And you should be when you play that hard.
WSUs 19-point comeback tied for the sixth-largest in recorded MVC history.
"We've got some big players on this team that like to make big plays," Baker said. "We had to keep grinding out the game."
Early led WSU with 22 points. VanVleet added 16 and Baker 15. Austin Ruder led MSU (12-4, 2-2) with 17 points.
WSU made 19 of 23 free throws in the second half and 31 of 40 for the game. The Shockers took advantage of their size advantage to score in the lane and draw fouls.
They won the game, simply, at the free-throw line, Lusk said. We fouled them. They're getting to the basket, they're driving it. They're getting offensive rebounds.
The Shockers outscored the Bears 31-11 at the line on the road. Once they got down big, they knew the foul line held the key to a comeback.
"When teams are down, with the rules, youve got to drive the basketball, Marshall said. Put the onus on the official one way or the other."
WSU started the second half on a 7-0 run with Early providing the defensive spark. He blocked three shots in the first three minutes and scored five points. Gulley, guarded by Early, responded with two baskets to give the Bears a 46-33 lead.
Then the Bears returned to their first-half sizzle. An 8-0 run restored control and got the crowd going. Gulleys three-point play with 11:48 remaining gave MSU a 54-35 lead with 11:48 to play.
The Shockers were far from done, however. They amped up the press and created turnovers, sparking a 16-5 run that cut MSUs lead to 58-51. Baker started the burst with a three. After a steal, Baker fed Early for a dunk to cut the lead to 54-41. Another turnover, created by VanVleets active hands, led to another Baker three to cut the lead to 10 points.
Darius Carters basket, after Baker tried to draw a foul by jumping into a defender, cut MSUs lead to 56-51.
The first half tested every bit of Wichita States chemistry and resolve. For the first time this season, they look rattled at times and with good reason.
The Shockers trailed 42-24 at halftime after going almost seven minutes without a basket and giving up a 10-3 run in the in the final three minutes of the first half. Missouri State made 8 of 14 three-pointers and the near-sellout crowd fed off almost every one to raise a roar.
The Shockers had not trailed by more than 13 previously, a deficit it overcame to beat BYU in November in Kansas City.
Carter tied the game 15-all with 9:28 to play in the first half. Little went right for the Shockers the rest of the half. They didnt score again until Early made two free throws with 5:27 to play. They didnt make another shot until Earlys jumper with 2:55 remaining.