Shocker fans in the Scottrade Center.Friday’s quarterfinals played out much like the regular season. Wichita State rolled over its opponent, playing well deep into the bench and away from Koch Arena. The rest of the conference engaged in a slugfest to the end – and Missouri State won another close game. The Shockers can hope Friday is a good omen from the standpoint of getting production from most of its 10-man rotation. Obviously, that omen only goes so far toward winning a championship.
“It’s not really a bench; it’s just another starting five,” WSU senior Gabe Blair said. “It’s definitely a great strength of ours. Everybody on our bench is capable of making plays and they are all capable of playing defense.”
That gets the Shockers (24-7) a date with third-seeded Indiana State (18-13) at 4:05 today. If there are two teams in this tournament who don’t worry much about fatigue, it’s these two. The Sycamores played 10 players 10 or more minutes, nobody more than 31. Their bench isn’t as talented as WSU’s, but coach Greg Lansing trusts them and can usually count on good minutes.
While the Sycamores are better than Evansville, the team they defeated 52-50 on Friday, this may be a better matchup for WSU. The Shockers struggle against the Aces and their physical play. Indiana State is more likely to let WSU run its offense and play at its tempo. Playing Evansville can exact a physical toll.
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“Playing a late game is not ideal, certainly, and playing an opponent like Evansville makes it tough,” Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said. “We’re a deep team, and our guys showed tonight they’re resilient and determined and tough.”
WSU swept the season series and its defense led the way. The Shockers held Indiana State to 39.2-percent shooting in a 93-83 triple-overtime win at Koch Arena. The Sycamores shot 41.7-percent in the rematch, a 70-54 WSU win in Terre Haute. WSU center Garrett Stutz averaged 15.5 points and made 12 of 22 shots in the two games.
Indiana State guard Jake Kelly is recovering from mono and did not play Friday. He hurt WSU in both regular-season games, scoring 11 points in each, making 8 of 12 shots. Forward Carl Richard is another player who always plays well against WSU and a guy respected by WSU coach Gregg Marshall. Richard scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in the game in Terre Haute. In Koch, he needed 21 shots to score 13 points.WSU has won six straight over the Sycamores. With a win, the Shockers will own 25 victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time.When you’re a senior, you want to leave on good memories in St. Louis. WSU’s J.T. Durley started Friday on a down note, picking up two fouls in less than three minutes and sitting the rest of the first half. He rallied with four points and four rebounds in the second half in 11 second-half minutes. WSU can’t afford to have Durley sitting that much today.
Around the Valley
Bradley finishes 12-20 with a defeat that offered no surprises. The Braves are over-matched.The Braves finished a difficult season with an emotional scene in the locker room.The Bluejays got a big lift from senior Kenny Lawson, who played like the preseason Player of the Year.Missouri State kept things in order – barely.SIU played the way its fans expected all season. Is it too late for coach Chris Lowery?Mamadou Seck is one of the MVC’s under-valued players. Missouri State knows all about him, that’s for sure.