Wichita State's Graham Hatch drives against Indiana State's Brant Leitnaker. Early in Saturday’s game, a rebound bounced long off the rim after a WSU shot, and Graham Hatch stood and watched it drop to the floor. An Indiana State player grabbed it. It was noticeable because Hatch rarely lets that kind of thing happen. He heard about the lapse from his coach, and from then on he did his Hatch thing with vigor. He hurled his body around, playing without a net like he usually does. He scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds (three on the offensive end) in the first half. Without him, WSU’s nine-point deficit (and it was as much as 16 earlier in the half) at halftime is bigger. “That’s Graham,” junior J.T. Durley said. “He’s the tough guy on our team, him and Aaron Ellis. His offensive glass work in the first half is what gave us a chance in the second half.”
Did the Shockers clinch second place in the MVC? No. Saturday turned out to be a big night in the race for that spot, however. Creighton lost at Missouri State to fall two games back, tied in third with Illinois State and Bradley. WSU is two games up with five to play. Three of WSU’s five MVC games are at home and four are against teams with losing MVC records. While the Shockers occupy themselves playing winless Evansville twice, Illinois State plays at Bradley on Tuesday, Illinois State plays at Creighton on Saturday and Bradley plays at Creighton on Feb. 27. The Redbirds, 1-5 in MVC road games, are in a dangerous position with trips to BU, CU and Northern Iowa remaining. WSU can watch those teams slug it out until it plays at Bradley on Feb. 24, its scariest remaining MVC game.
Durley can add a dimension to WSU’s offense if he can continue driving and drawing fouls. He shot 13 free throws Saturday.
Around the Valley
Evansville lost its 14th straight game with WSU heading to Roberts Stadium on Tuesday. Coach Marty Simmons wasn’t pleased with the effort against Bradley. Bradley coach Jim Les leaned on his bench and it worked well. Peoria Journal-Star sports editor Kirk Wessler blogs that non-BCS schools could be in for a good haul on Selection Sunday. Illinois State survives against Drake, thanks to a missed free throw by Josh Young. Creighton failed to put up much of a fight at Missouri State. The Bears broke an eight-game losing streak to the Bluejays with their best effort of the MVC season. Northern Iowa’s Adam Koch scores 11 points in the final three minutes to hold off Southern Illinois.