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From 1987: Cundiff leads WSU to MVC title

This story was originally published on March. 5, 1987

TULSA — Wichita State earned a trip to the NCAA tournament by winning, in overtime, on the toughest court in the Valley.

The Shockers blew a nine-point lead in the final 75 seconds of regulation but steadied themselves in overtime to dump Tulsa 79-74 Wednesday night in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament.

It was just Tulsa's ninth loss in its last 120 home games. Two of those defeats, though, have come against the Shockers in the tourney championship game.

WSU, now 22-10, will learn its NCAA assignment Sunday afternoon when the men's basketball committee announces the field for the 64-team tournament.

We've come a long way," said Shocker coach Eddie Fogler, whose team had dropped four consecutive road games at one point this season. We kept our composure."

The Shockers, who missed two crucial one-and-ones in the final seconds of regulation, got two big buckets from Gus Santos in overtime and then drained five consecutive free throws to preserve the win.

I think they expended so much energy getting back into the game, after we hit the first basket (in overtime), they just let down," said WSU guard Gary Cundiff, who tied a career-high with 17 points and earned game MVP honors.

I think the key was the start of overtime," Fogler said. We got the first basket. If they had scored first, it might have been a different story."

Santos' second 15-foot jumper gave WSU a 74-72 lead with 1:03 to play. After Tracy Moore, pressured by Dwight Praylow, missed a jumper in the lane that would have tied the game, WSU began playing string music at the foul line.

Cundiff hit a pair with 25 seconds to play to give WSU a 76-72 lead. After Tulsa's David Moss scored the last of his 36 points to pull the Hurricane to within 76-74, Sasha Radunovich calmly netted both ends of a one-and-one with 13 seconds to play.

I thought to myself, Sasha, if you don't make these . . .,' " said Radunovich, one of five Shockers in double figures. I didn't want to live with that the rest of my life."

Steve Grayer, who added 14 points and 10 rebounds for WSU, tossed in a final free throw with three seconds to play. That set off a celebration among Shocker players and fans who danced on the court in jubilation after the game.

In overtime, we came down on every trip and tried to make something great happen," said Tulsa Coach J.D. Barnett. Wichita State came down and just played ground' em up offense and that's what won it for them."

WSU, which won its seventh consecutive game, appeared to have the game under control, using consecutive three-pointers from Cundiff to take a 56-48 lead with 9:36 to play.

Last night I was thinking of what I could do in this game," Cundiff said. It happened."

Cundiff led a scorching Shocker perimeter game that shot 8 of 10 from three-point range. Both Cundiff and Joe Griffin were 3 of 3 from three-point land.

As a team, WSU shot 55 percent from the floor (28 of 51) and 75 percent (15 of 20) from the foul line.

Nobody shoots like that," Fogler said. That's a heckuva offensive performance tonight."

It happens some nights that you can't miss," Radunovich said. Tonight was the night."

Tulsa was trying to become the first Valley team to win consecutive tournaments. Instead, the Hurricane fell victim to the regular-season title championship blues. Since 1980, only one team that has won the regular-season title has won the postseason tournament.

I'm very disappointed," said Barnett, whose team is 22-7 and probably will receive an at-large bid to the tournament. I think coaches make their teams tough. I think that's what I'm best at, and when that unfolds in front of you, like it did tonight, I have to get down on myself."

WSU still led 70-61 with 1:15 to play after Radunovich, who scored 10 points, made a pair of foul shots. But Moss scored five points in the closing moments and Moore and Donald Royster both added baskets.

Royster's hoop, an off-balance one-hander that went in off the glass, came with eight seconds to play after WSU failed to inbound the ball in five seconds and turned it over. Griffin and Santos both missed a one-and-ones in the final 50 seconds to let Tulsa slip back into the game.

The Shockers led 35-34 at halftime despite playing the final 9:30 without Radunovich, who found himself in foul trouble. Henry Carr, also picked up three fouls - two of them on the offensive end - and sat out the final 4:17.

Still, it was the first time in three tournament games that WSU had led at the half.

WSU managed to stay on top by shooting 14 of 24 (58 percent) from the floor, including a scorching 5 of 7 from three-point range.

Praylow and Griffin each threw in a pair of three-pointers in the first half while Cundiff had another. Praylow and Grayer each scored eight point for WSU in the first half.

Moss led all scorers with 16 first-half points, including consecutive three-point jumpers.

Those two shots helped slice a 14-6 WSU advantage to 14-12 with 12:15 to play. Moore then tied the game with a dunk off a lob from Byron Boudreaux.

Tulsa's biggest lead was 20-16 with 9:30 to play following two free throws by Moss. But Griffin sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around an offensive rebound and basket by Grayer to tie the score at 24-24.

It was 26-26 when Cundiff hit his three-pointer for a 29-26 WSU lead with 5:00 until halftime.

But Royster hit four quick points, two on a dunk following a WSU turnover, for a 30-29 Tulsa lead. The Shockers, though, responded with a tip-in from Tom Kosich and baskets from Praylow and Grayer to take a 35-32 lead.

Moss, who was 6-for-6 from the foul line, hit two more free throws with six seconds until halftime to end the scoring.

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