It took the usual ingredients for Wichita State to get its road karma going again. A lot of Garrett Stutz. A three-point shooter got hot. A long stretch of good defense and rebounding.
Those are the main reasons the Shockers are 7-1 away from home, and Saturday’s triple-overtime loss to Drake didn’t change anything. WSU rebounded with a 74-67 win over Missouri State on Wednesday night at JQH Arena to remain one game behind Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
“It was a kind of downer up there, and no one wants to lose a triple-overtime game on the road, especially when we should have won,” Stutz said of Drake. “We got back to doing what we’re used to doing. Whenever we start making shots, we’re a very quality team.”
WSU (19-4, 10-2 MVC) didn’t hit MSU (13-11, 6-6) with its best stuff until the second half. Then it wobbled in the final minutes, giving the Bears life with turnovers. In between, WSU hammered the Bears in the lane with Stutz and found Ben Smith for outside shots. Stutz scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Smith added 21, making 5 of 9 threes.
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“When they busted it up to a 12-point lead, we were getting kind of tired,” MSU forward Kyle Weems said. “We weren’t getting back in transition. Then when we fought back, it was a little bit too late.”
The Bears made 15 of 23 shots in the first half and led 36-34. The Shockers made some adjustments in the second half and did a better job keeping MSU’s slashers from getting easy shots. The Bears missed five of their first six shots in the second half and committed two early turnovers. Smith made two threes and Stutz dunked for a 46-39 lead.
WSU played some zone to disrupt MSU’s flow. They took away Jarmar Gulley’s right hand after he scored 10 first-half points and held him to four in the second half. Keith Pickens scored 10 in the first half and two in the second.
“They were getting point-blank looks with 6-foot-5 athletes that can’t really shoot it great,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “But they’re certainly slashers that can score inside.”
When WSU’s defense earned some stops, Stutz and Smith built a lead.
Smith scored 15 points in the second half, making three threes. Stutz, not double-teamed as frequently as in many games, scored 12. He took advantage of the absence of MSU center Caleb Patterson, out with a sprained right ankle, to record his third straight game of 20 or more points. Stutz again showed his expanding repertoire of moves. In the first half, he made a three for the second game in a row. Early in the second half, he faked a three-pointer, faked a pass and drove to the rim for a dunk. He slammed in a David Kyles miss with two hands for a 57-48 lead.
“He’s been working on off-the-dribble,” Weems said. “You saw him make a couple drives to the basket. He’s using the shot fake well. You can tell he’s been working on his game.”
WSU led 60-48 with 9:15 to play. It led 68-60 with 3:36 remaining after Smith made two free throws. After a Gulley miss, Pickens stole an outlet pass by Stutz and Weems sank a three-pointer.
Instead of pulling away, the Shockers had to fight for survival. After a timeout, WSU had to settle for an off-balance shot by Toure Murry late in the shot clock. The Bears beat the Shockers downcourt and Anthony Downing’s jumper cut the lead to 68-65. Murry then missed a runner in the lane, giving MSU the ball with a chance to tie.
Downing missed a three and Pickens rebounded. After Weems, guarded closely by Smith, missed a three, the rebounded bounced long toward the top of the key. Smith dove on the loose ball and forced a jump ball, with possession going to the Shockers with 1:05 remaining.
The Bears fouled three straight times to get WSU to the foul line. Murry made two with 46.7 seconds to play. Stutz made his two with 30 seconds and Murry sank two more with 11 seconds remaining.
Weems led MSU with 21 points.
Neither team could take charge in the first half.
WSU trailed 26-20 before it quickly quieted the crowd of 7,666. Smith’s three cut the deficit in half. Carl Hall scored over Weems to make it 26-25. Then Hall scored on an inbounds play to give WSU a one-point lead.
Weems didn’t stay quiet for long. He made a three over Demetric Williams when the Shockers went to a zone defense, putting the Bears up 29-27. He scored the final points of the half to put MSU ahead 36-34. Weems, Pickens and Gulley each scored 10 points in the half. Stutz led WSU with 13.