Whether the Wichita State women’s basketball team can win its first Missouri Valley championship outright could be decided Thursday night at Illinois State.
The Shockers (19-8, 13-2 MVC) are one game ahead of Creighton with three to play. But if WSU loses and Creighton wins out, then the Bluejays would hold the tiebreaker based on a points system and power ranking.
So the last five years of work Jody Adams has put into WSU, with three four-year seniors leading the way, will see its culmination in this season-ending, three-game road trip that begins in Normal, Ill., where the Shockers are winless since 2004.
“We understand this can make or break us,” one of those seniors, Jessica Diamond, said.
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Nothing can diminish what has been a successful season for WSU, but not topping it off with its desired finish would put a damper on it.
In order to continue their championship drive, the Shockers will need a road win over the Redbirds (18-8, 10-4 MVC) to complete their first sweep of ISU in 14 seasons.
“We’re the No. 1 team and we’re going to go in and play like the No. 1 team,” Diamond said. “We expect to win, not anything less. But in order to do that, we’re going to have to go in with an attack mentality.”
Adams believes she has been preparing her team for this moment all season. That’s why she put her team through the rigors of a difficult non-conference schedule. That’s why she has doled out the tough love. That’s why she expects to win Thursday.
“You got to show up in big games and in difficult times and in challenging times,” Adams said. “That’s when you really truly find out a lot about your team.”
The players said they feel more mentally prepared than last season, when the Shockers lost at Illinois State to let their MVC lead slip away.
“The coaches aren’t letting us take anything but first place,” senior Jazimen Gordon said. “We can’t give anything less than our best in practice and I have no doubt that will carry over into the game.”
Wichita State can’t win the conference title on Thursday, but it certainly could lose a firm grip on it.
“All we’ve talked about is having a sense of urgency,” Adams said. “And being relentless.”