The first loss for the Wichita State women’s basketball team in 63 days did not cost it the Missouri Valley championship.
The Shockers remain in favorable position to repeat their conference title, as their 12-1 record translates to a three-game lead in the MVC standings over Northern Iowa with five to play.
What Sunday’s 80-71 loss on the road at UNI did cost WSU was its undefeated season in conference play, a feat that has never been accomplished since the Missouri Valley was formed in the 1992-93 season. A 17-1 record has been done twice.
“It was a bummer,” WSU junior Kelsey Jacobs said. “It would have been so awesome, but I didn’t feel like the world was going to end.”
Wichita State returns home to host Illinois State on Friday a humbled team, its program-best 20-game winning streak gone.
Coach Jody Adams has emphasized to her team they weren’t playing for a perfect season. That was a byproduct of the Shockers’ end goal, which is still possible, that being a MVC title.
“Now it’s time for us to make a new streak,” Adams said. “At this point in time, in February, you’re playing to prove something. We have a lot to prove.”
Junior Alex Harden, who scored a career-high 31 points in the loss, called the loss a “reality check.” Jacobs said the players were, more than anything, angry at themselves for becoming complacent and letting a winnable game slip away.
Adams sensed that immediately after the game, but told her players not to dwell.
“I’m sure if they could have turned right around and played UNI again, they would turn right around and play UNI again,” Adams said. “But you can’t take that back. You have to learn from it and move on.”
After posting an average margin of victory of 20.9 points in the first half of the MVC schedule, WSU has seen a dramatic increase in competition the second go-around.
The Shockers have trailed at halftime in three of their four games so far, and lost to UNI, a team they beat by 33 points at Koch Area on Jan. 18.
Wichita State doesn’t want to inject hope in the rest of the conference that its suddenly vulnerable, so Friday night is more than just playing Illinois State.
It’s about WSU proving itself all over again.
“We’re ready to play and we’re ready to show we’re not scared,” Jacobs said. “We want to go out there and show what we can do again.”