Just as long as it’s a program first, it will suffice for the Wichita State women’s basketball team.
The Shockers had hopes of the first being a NCAA Tournament berth or a conference championship, but Friday night’s 79-57 victory over Oral Roberts at Koch Arena will do just fine.
WSU’s 20th victory of the season proved to be monumental. It not only tied the school record for wins in a season, but also was the first time the Shockers have won in the WNIT.
Wichita State advances to the round of 32 and will play at Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“We faced the fact that we didn’t make the NCAA’s, so we have a new goal,” junior Chynna Turner said. “To win the WNIT, so we’re taking that on now.”
The first foe standing in the way of that goal certainly wasn’t ready for WSU’s raid to begin the game. After 70 seconds, Wichita State led 8-0 and Oral Roberts coach Jerry Finkbeiner was out of two timeouts.
“We were overwhelmed and shell-shocked and all the credit goes to the Shockers,” Finkbeiner said. “They were more athletic, but that didn’t surprise us. But when you have a more athletic group that comes out and out-works you, then that difference is even greater.”
Oral Roberts wanted to funnel its offense through 5-foot-10 guard Kevi Luper, the three-time Summit League Player of the Year. Not only did WSU neutralize her as a threat through the persistent defense of Haleigh Lankster, but it forced her teammates into five turnovers. After four minutes, WSU led 19-3.
Luper finished with 17 points, seven below her season average.
“It’s just really who we are,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “I think these guys want to be it, day-in and day-out. They know when we’re at our best. Being a great program, you’re able to do those things consistently. As your program grows, you do it more and more consistently each and every time you take the floor.”
Lankster also was at her best offensively, scoring a game-high 21 points in 14 minutes. But the senior appeared to separate her right shoulder in a collision early in the second half with an Oral Roberts player going for the ball. Lankster was taken to the locker room and she emerged later in the second half with her right shoulder in a sling.
Adams was not sure if Lankster would be available Sunday.
But she was sure WSU still could capture the play that it had during a 10-game winning streak and led the Missouri Valley race after the first round.
“This just shows how good this team can be when everybody plays together and we play as a team,” said junior Jessica Diamond, who scored 20 points. “It shows us how great we are, so we just have to continue to focus on that.”
Halftime—Wichita St. 51, Oral Roberts 28. Three-point shooting—ORU 3-9 (Key 1-1, Jones 1-3, Bigham 1-3, Luper 0-1, Buck 0-1), WSU 7-13 (Lankster 3-4, Diamond 2-4, Sanchez 2-5). Rebounds—ORU 34 (Carver 9), WSU 39 (Gordon, Turner 8). Assists—ORU 7 (Jones 4), WSU 15 (Sanchez, Jones 4). Fouls—ORU 17, WSU 17. A—1,282.