You can count on Evan Wessel to not go down without a fight — that’s something Wichita State fans have known about the junior forward for years.
He will play his way onto the court with defense, with rebounding, with diving for loose balls. Wessel is a scrapper. He knows his role.
But something has changed in the last few weeks, something unexpected for almost everyone outside of WSU’s locker room.
Now, you can also count on him to score.
“My teammates’ confidence in me has always been the biggest thing,” Wessel said. “They’re always telling me to keep shooting it, always have my back. I just have to keep focused and knock (shots) down.”
Wessel continued his late-season scoring surge with 11 points on Saturday as No. 11 WSU defeated No. 10 Northern Iowa 74-60 to clinch the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference championship.
It was Wessel’s third time scoring in double figures in the Shockers’ last five games after doing it just once in the first 25.
“It means a lot to win the Missouri Valley championship, means a lot to come back and beat (Northern Iowa) after the loss earlier this year,” Wessel said. “We really wanted to feed off the energy of the crowd, wanted to translate that to the game.”
Wessel scored eight of his points in the second half, and they came at the most opportune time for WSU.
Northern Iowa trailed 51-33 with 15:23 left in the second half but battled back, and was within 53-49 with 9:17 left thanks to a 12-0 run.
Wessel rose up and sank back-to-back three-pointers to make the score 63-55 with 5:33 left, and the Shockers soon restored a double-digit lead.
“It seemed like we’d get close, and they’d have a big run,” Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle said. “We get within four or five and (Wessel) knocks down those threes and we’re down big again.”
That Wessel’s big game came on senior day for WSU’s Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter made it that much sweeter for the Heights product, who was part of the same recruiting class as Cotton in 2011, but redshirted in 2012-2013.
“We wanted to go out with a win for these seniors,” Wessel said. “I’ve been with Tekele for four years and Darius for two, so that means a lot to me.
“We’re going to enjoy this win tonight, obviously, then get back to work on Monday.”