Sunday’s box score
WSU 69, Illinois St. 65
ILLINOIS STATE (23-10): Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0, Foley 0-2 2-2 2, Russell 12-20 2-4 27, Smith 7-13 5-6 19, Puni 4-7 4-5 12, Sykes 2-9 0-0 5, Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 13-17 65.
WICHITA STATE (24-9): Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Dapprich 7-14 2-2 19, Fountaine 2-6 0-0 4, Harden 8-15 3-4 19, Turner 4-9 3-6 12, Diamond 4-9 2-3 11, Price 2-2 0-0 4, Gordon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-55 10-15 69.
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Halftime—Wichita St. 40-39. Three-point shooting—Illinois St. 2-7 (Russell 1-1, Sykes 1-4, Jenkins 0-1, Foley 0-1), Wichita St. 5-13 (Dapprich 3-5, Turner 1-1, Diamond 1-2, Harden 0-2, Fountaine 0-3). Rebounds—Illinois St. 30 (Puni 10), Wichita St. 29 (Turner 7). Assists—Illinois St. 10 (Jenkins 3), Wichita St. 14 (Diamond 4). Total fouls—Illinois St. 13, Wichita St. 14.
Early NCAA projections
Fans are welcome to join Wichita State in watching its NCAA Tournament destination at 5:45 p.m. Monday in the Champions Club at Koch Arena.
The brackets will be unveiled on ESPN starting at 6 p.m. with the Shockers included for the first time.
Early projections have Wichita State as a 13 or 14 seed. The average seeding of the last 10 Missouri Valley champions has been a 14.
A Missouri Valley team hasn’t won in the NCAA Tournament since Drake reached the Sweet 16 in 2002.
“Man, I don’t even know what to expect,” senior Jazimen Gordon said. “I used to watch the NCAA Tournament on TV as a fan. It’s going to be crazy to actually be playing in it now.”
Usually when Wichita State shoots 53 percent in a half, its defense is enough to overwhelm an opponent.
Not Illinois State and especially not senior Jamie Russell, who turned the offensive end of the court into her own personal shootaround in the first half.
Russell went around screen after screen until she finally shook her defender loose and scored many of her 20 first-half points on uncontested shots. The one shot she missed, Russell put back in with a tip-in.
“We knew she was going to get hers because she’s a great player and she’s on the first team (all-conference),” WSU’s Chynna Turner said. “We wanted to control everybody. That’s what mattered.”
Russell finished with a game-high 27 points, but her teammates were 13 of 33 from the field to shoot 39 percent.
Illinois State coach Stephanie Glance referenced John Wooden’s quote about competitive greatness before saying, “When it’s time for you to step up and rise to the occasion, it’s a challenge. Some people meet it and some don’t and Jamie definitely did.”
Wichita State coach Jody Adams said she knew this season would be special. With six seniors, including the final years of four-year seniors Jessica Diamond, Chynna Turner and Jazimen Gordon, Adams treated this team differently than any other team she has coached.
“This year I couldn’t get mad at them,” Adams said. “I wanted to cry instead because they were right there. They just had to put all the little intangibles together.”
After entering the tournament as the No. 1 defensive scoring team in the Valley, Wichita State gave up an average of 35 points in the first half of its three tournament games.… WSU has won a Missouri Valley championship in every sport it competes in.… The Shockers are 20-2 when leading at halftime and 16-1 when they score at least 60 points.… Freshman Michaela Dapprich led the tournament with seven three-pointers, including three in the championship.
— Taylor Eldridge