One day after a miserable loss in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, Wichita State players met and decided they wanted to keep playing.
They vowed to take the National Invitation Tournament seriously.
They can hold their next team meeting in New York, where it will be time to take winning a championship seriously. The Shockers defeated the College of Charleston 82-75 on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the NIT. The next stop is Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on Tuesday against Washington State, a 69-66 overtime winner over Northwestern late Wednesday night.
“They set it as a goal to get to New York,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Now we’ve got to establish a different goal.”
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WSU (27-8) ties a school record with its 27th win and becomes the first MVC school to make the semifinals of the NIT since Bradley won it in 1982. The Shockers, in 11 previous NIT appearances, didn’t advance past the quarterfinals.
When Wednesday’s game ended, after WSU held off a Cougars rally, the speakers blared Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and the sell-out crowd roared. WSU’s David Kyles and J.T. Durley danced at half court and shared a flying chest bump. The celebration kept going long after the game, with fans waiting for autographs and players making plans to see the big city.
“It’s a great feeling to play in Madison Square Garden,” Durley said. “That’s what all the great players in the NBA talk about — to play in Madison Square Garden.”
WSU continued its resurgence in the NIT with another display of offensive execution and unselfish basketball. The Shockers shot 54.7 percent from the floor and handed out 20 assists on 29 baskets. They led for the game’s final 25 minutes, stretching the edge to as many as 21 points in the second half.
“New York will love having Wichita State,” said Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, a New Yorker coaching in his sixth NIT. “I’m impressed with the balance of Wichita State, and I think they’re going to have a great shot.”
Cremins certainly saw the best of WSU. The Shockers closed the first half with an 18-6 run to break a tie game. Durley and Blair worked over the smaller Cougars in the lane. Both scored eight points in the first half to help WSU lead 37-25. Blair finished with 16 and eight rebounds. Durley added 14 points.
“They weren’t deep, so we were trying to take it at them and get in them in foul trouble,” Durley said.
WSU’s defense held the Cougars to nine baskets in the first half. Charleston (26-11) averages almost 23 three-point shots a game. In the first half, it made 1 of 3.
“We dug a hole in the first half,” Cremins said. “We got a little excited, got away from our game.”
Charleston’s game is giving ball to guard Andrew Goudelock, a senior who averages 23.5 points. WSU junior Toure Murry used his quickness and long arms to limit Goudelock in the first half. Murry chased him through screens and tried to ignore his pump fakes and keep a hand in his face. When Goudelock got by him, Murry was quick enough to recover and deflect the ball on several occasions. His persistence forced Goudelock into eight turnovers, and he needed 27 shots to score 31 points.
“My goal was to be go where he went,” Murry said. “Just stay on him.”
With Goudelock limited to eight first-half points, the Cougars floundered.
“Drew had some really good looks and missed,” Cremins said. “Then I started to worry. He was not himself.”
In the second half, WSU’s bench sparked a 20-10 run that gave WSU a 61-40 lead with 11:51 to play. The Cougars never wavered from their three-point attack. When WSU slowed its pace, the Cougars rallied. They made eight of nine shots to cut the lead to 69-62. Goudelock made 7 of 14 threes in the second half to score 23 points.
“You don’t see performances like that very often,” Marshall said. “That’s a special, special talent.”
Graham Hatch’s three-point play restored WSU’s momentum, giving it a 71-62 lead with 2:59 to play. The Shockers made nine of 10 free throws in the final 1:38, never allowing the Cougars to get closer than six points.