Wichita State led by 19 points in the second half. It gave back 18 of those hard-earned points. Troubling as that may be to fans, Shocker coach Gregg Marshall isn’t worried about margin of victory after Tuesday’s 65-62 win over Illinois State.
“You can’t take it for granted that you’re going to win at home,” he said. “I say ‘Home win — great’. It’s college basketball.”
The Shockers (13-3, 4-1 Missouri Valley Conference) stayed in a tie — now featuring three teams — atop the MVC standings. Illinois State (11-5, 3-2) dropped into sole possession of fourth.
It’s unclear who takes the most momentum from this game, because both teams can feel good and bad about plenty of items. The Shockers dominated the first half and had the game well under control for more than 10 minutes in the second. Then they fell apart before regrouping behind clutch shots by Toure Murry and avoided a debilitating home loss.
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“Of course we’re not happy — we want to execute and play well for 40 minutes,” WSU guard Joe Ragland said. “It didn’t happen tonight.”
The Redbirds, with freshman guard Nic Moore slicing up the Shockers, almost won the final 10 minutes. They trailed 47-28 with 14:42 to play. WSU led 51-40 with 9:55 remaining. Moore’s layup with 4:05 remaining cut the lead to 53-52 and sucked most of the fun out of the game for the crowd of 10,078. Moore scored 23 points, 20 in the second half against a WSU defense that failed to keep him out of the lane or crowd his three-point attempts.
“I thought we had a great shot,” Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich. “I’ve seen it a million times, the pressure really gets on the home team. We got in a great flow.”
If pressure bothered the Shockers, it didn’t show after that point. They scored on their next four possessions and on five of their next six.
“We haven’t been in a lot of close ones,” Marshall said. “We had to execute down at the end. We had to make some free throws.”
Murry returned to his role as WSU’s big-shot guy. He made two free throws to counter Moore’s layup. His floater in the lane gave WSU a 57-54 lead. His long two-point basket, coming off a screen, put the Shockers up 61-58 with 1:51 remaining.
Garrett Stutz added his help, making two free throws with 30.3 seconds to play for a 63-60 lead. Murry made two more with 19.7 seconds remaining for a five-point edge.
That was just enough, even though it got wild in the final seconds.
The Redbirds cut the lead to 65-62 on two free throws by Tyler Brown, fouled while shooting a three by Ragland. WSU in-bounded under the Redbirds basket after the miss with 2.3 seconds to play. Murry took the pass and dribbled once before the approaching defender distracted him and the ball went out of bound. The referees checked the time — giving Jankovich time to draw a play — and gave the Redbirds the ball with 0.8 seconds remaining in front of their bench.
Murry and Demetric Williams read the play perfectly, both blanketing Tyler Brown across the court as he caught a pass from Jon Ekey. Brown stepped out of bound and didn’t get a shot off.
“When he spun out and went long, I figured they were trying to get him the ball,” Murry said. “We both went with him. Thank god he stepped out of bound.”
Brown heard the whistle before he shot.
“I’m not really paying attention to the sideline,” he said. “I do wear size 14 shoes, so that doesn’t help at all.”