Score: WSU 62, MSU 52
Key stats: The Shockers held MSU to 32.8-percent shooting and outscored the Bears 17-9 at the foul line.
How the game turned: WSU trailed 35-28 with 15:29 to play and stormed to a 36-35 lead with 13:21 remaining and never trailed again. Carl Hall scored six of those eight points. The Shockers led 44-35 with 9:46 to play and MSU got no closer than six.
Records: WSU 18-2, 7-1 MVC; MSU 5-15, 3-5
The Shockers won despite giving up a 19-0 run, broken up by halftime. They won despite playing four guards who made 2 of 14 threes. They won despite scoring two fast-break points. They showed no concern or frustration during that time and they didn’t let their offensive struggles sap their defense. While the Shockers didn’t score many fast-break points, they did loosen up MSU’s defense by pushing the ball and scoring before the Bears could get set. “They were doing good on clogging the paint and not letting us get transition buckets,” WSU guard Demetric Williams said. “We just wanted to get out and run.” WSU coach Gregg Marshall second-guessed himself for not calling a timeout to break up that run, one that eventually stretched to 23-4. On the plus side, when he considered it, and didn’t, Cleanthony Early made a three-pointer to start WSU’s rally with 15:49 to play. WSU usually considers it a point of pride not to switch men while on defense. MSU accomplished something by forcing the Shockers to change strategy in the second half. “We started switching ball screens and then, late, started switching ball screens and handoffs, which I thought helped us tremendously,” Marshall said. “I’m not a big proponent of that, but they were running such good stuff to get those guys shots.” MSU coach Paul Lusk differentiated his strategy of playing off Tekele Cotton from Creighton’s. “They got a guy that can guard Hall,” he said, referring to Bluejays center Gregory Echenique. “We’re constantly scheming. We were trying to do it to really get in there and give some help on the post.” While MSU’s Gavin Thurman struck for a season-high 21 points, WSU’s guards limited MSU’s Anthony Downing and Marcus Marshall. Downing, MSU’s leading scorer at 14.2 points, go his average, but made 4 of 14 shots and went 0 for 6 from three-point range. Marcus Marshall, who averages 9.9 points, scored 7 and missed 6 of 7 threes. “I was just throwing up bricks, basically,” Downing said. “I had open shots.” Early grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds, six on the offensive glass. “He really went to the offensive glass well,” Marshall said. “Very pleased. If we missed, we got a second chance.” It is too early to call Wednesday a crucial night in the MVC race. However, it certainly altered some immediate outlooks. Creighton lost at Drake to fall a game behind WSU. Indiana State missed a chance to tie Creighton for second by losing at Illinois State. The Sycamores are tied for third with Evansville. The two teams who might play a big role in deciding things are Northern Iowa and Illinois State. UNI has won three of four and scored 80-plus points in two of those wins. Illinois State is playing more like the team picked second with two straight wins. WSU must travel to UNI and ISU. Creighton already owns a win at Illinois State.
Next up: vs. Bradley, 7 p.m. Saturday (Cox 22)