Another disaster avoided, another no-win game won, another resume-killer survived.
No. 21 Wichita State defeated Bradley 82-56 on Friday night at Scottrade Center in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
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The win puts the Shockers one game closer to the MVC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and one more game removed from the possibility of a ruinous loss. WSU’s NCAA at-large resume didn’t get much better; more importantly, it didn’t get worse.
“Let’s win the thing and know that we’re going to be in the (NCAA) tournament,” WSU guard Landry Shamet said. “We don’t want to leave it up to chance.”
Second-seeded WSU (28-4) will play No. 6 Missouri State on Saturday in the 5:05 p.m. semifinal. The Shockers advance to the semifinals for the eighth straight season, the longest streak in tournament history. Missouri State defeated Northern Iowa 70-64.
“This whole tournament is about us, and what we’ve got to do,” sophomore Markis McDuffie said.
A four-game win streak ended for seventh-seeded Bradley (13-20).
The Shockers, after a turnover-plagued mess of a start, played like a team intent on winning two more games and cutting the nets. Their defense frazzled the Braves midway through the first half and turned their offense into a lowlight reel of forced shots, airballs and passes sailing out of play.
“Eightteen turnovers, you’re just not going to win when you’re playing in this type of game,” Bradley coach Brian Wardle said.
WSU’s Darral Willis scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Rashard Kelly added 14 points and seven rebounds. Kelly, as he has often over the past two months, provided the Shockers a charge with his hustle and leadership. He is one of the Shockers who talks the most on the court, putting teammates in the right spot and encouraging.
“Coach was asking us what could do to affect the game,” Kelly said. “When I communicate, that helps get us going.”
WSU made 31 of 45 foul shots, outscoring Bradley by 21 points at the line. The Shockers outrebounded Bradley 51-37. It turned 19 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points.
“Coach (Gregg Marshall) stressed us going to the offensive rebound glass,” Willis said. “He just wanted us to beat them on the offensive glass.”
Freshman guard Darrell Brown led the Braves with 18 points. He committed six turnovers. WSU sent 6-foot-7 Zach Brown and 6-8 Markis McDuffie after the 5-11 Brown and he rarely got open shots. When he started forcing guarded shots midway through the first half – including an airball from well beyond the three-point arc – Bradley’s offense unraveled.
“When we did get a good look, we just didn’t know them down,” Wardle said. “That got us a little frustrated as the half went on. We weren’t scoring and that definitely affected the other end.”
Bradley made 21 of 55 shots (38 percent) and committed 18 turnovers.
The Shockers made 17 of 21 free throws in the first half, outscoring Bradley by 15 at the line. They outrebounded the Braves 30-14, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds, but only converting one into a basket.
The Shockers used a 30-8 run in the first half to ruin Bradley’s spunky start. The Shockers led 42-16 at halftime on their way to a 16th consecutive win over Bradley. The Braves had to call timeout 51 seconds into the second half, an indication things worsened for much of the second half.
Bradley started the game with a swarming defense that forced five WSU turnovers before allowing a point. The Braves couldn’t sustain that, especially when WSU’s defense took over. The Braves melted into a mess of off-balance shots and turnovers.
“We came out even for the first few minutes and then you could feel something change,” Bradley guard Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye said. “We made some mistakes and they jumped all over us.”
- When: 5 p.m. Saturday
- Opponent: Missouri State
- Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
- Radio: 103.7-FM
- TV: CBSSN