The 2009 loss at Missouri State is the "We learned our lesson" symbol for the Wichita State basketball team.
Junior J.T. Durley invoked it after Wednesday's win over Illinois State, as in "We learned our lesson after Saturday's loss at Drake."
"We took the Drake game as the Missouri State game last year," Durley said. "We didn't play that well, and it had to do a little bit with effort at Drake. It was tough days, working hard, and getting back to things that we do — playing Wichita State basketball."
If so, the Shockers are ready for a strong second half of the Missouri Valley Conference schedule. In 2009, the loss at Missouri State shamed the Shockers into a playing harder and they reeled off five wins in their next six games. This season's 78-64 loss at Drake was no less disappointing. The Shockers, at home, played better in the 74-66 win over Illinois State.
Now they head back on the road to two places where they traditionally struggle. WSU (18-4, 7-3 MVC) plays at Southern Illinois on Sunday night and at first-place Northern Iowa on Wednesday. The Shockers are burdened with an 11-game losing streak at SIU Arena and are 2-8 in their past 10 trips to Cedar Falls, Iowa.
"If we want to be an elite Valley team, we've got to go on the road and beat good teams like Southern and Northern Iowa," WSU senior Clevin Hannah said.
The 2009 team enjoyed the benefit of redeeming itself with three straight home games. The 2010 team must go on the road to wash away its most disappointing loss and stay in the MVC race. The Shockers say they know what went wrong at Drake, and how to correct it.
"We've got to be more on and more mentally in the game," Hannah said. "In shoot-around (at Drake), I just didn't feel we were ready to play."
WSU hasn't suffered many of those letdowns. It passed last season's win total on Wednesday and its 18 wins are the program's most since the 2005-06 team went 26-9. Those are good accomplishments, but not enough for a team that wants to finish first in the MVC and go to the NCAA Tournament.
"We want to prove on the road that we can play and be a contender," guard Toure Murry said.
Hannah falls to third — Hannah missed two free throws on Wednesday, dropping his season percentage to 93.7 (59 of 63).
The margin for error at the top of the nation's free-throw shooters is small. The misses dropped Hannah from first to third after Wednesday's games.
Appalachian State's Donald Sims (94.7 percent) moved into first, followed by Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs (94.4).
Hannah's first miss ended his school-record streak of 43 consecutive free throws, the MVC's seventh longest streak. He came up one short of sixth place, held by Bradley's James Gillingham in 2003.
He had not missed a free throw since the first half of the TCU game on Dec. 12. After the misses, Hannah made four straight.