The first turnover was ordinary.
The second and third turnovers elicited a rumbling from the 2,014 fans inside Koch Arena on Sunday afternoon.
By the time Wichita State junior Jamillah Bonner forced the fourth straight turnover, causing Loyola’s Ayrealle Beavers to lose control of the ball, leading to a WSU basket, the crowd was roaring.
It was a special moment for a special team — one that delivered its record-setting 19th straight victory by chiseling down Loyola, 65-50, to improve to 20-2 overall and 11-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
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“I told (Bonner) in the timeout, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen anybody get a standing ovation before, but you just basically got one for zig-zagging the ball a few times,’” Adams said. “I’m glad our fans appreciate that type of play.”
The sequence embodied what makes these Shockers so gritty.
Sunday’s 15-point win is the 10th double-digit victory by WSU in 11 tries against the Valley. And it began by the Shockers producing two points in their first 17 possessions to fall behind 12-2.
Overcoming that adversity drew high praise from Adams.
“I’m in awe of their toughness at times,” said Adams, who played for Pat Summitt at Tennessee. “I compare them to the best. I think I’ve been around the best at the highest level, and I’ve got some tough kids. It makes me smile knowing I have that going into battle.”
It was evident how high Adams regards this team when she passed over the opportunity to call timeout to reset during the lackadaisical start. That decision spoke more to the players than anything she could have said in a huddle.
“It goes back to her trusting us and knowing we’re going to be able to work our way through it,” WSU’s Alex Harden said. “It’s a respect thing from the players to the coach.”
So Wichita State began to grind, whittling the deficit down until it took an 18-17 lead with 6:40 remaining in the first half. But Loyola proved to be a worthy adversary, answering right back to take a 30-29 lead into halftime.
It was only the second time this season the Shockers have trailed at intermission, the other being their 89-70 loss to Oklahoma in Norman.
“We came together and said we’re not going to lose this game, especially on our home court,” Bonner said. “That’s our determination to win.”
The second half became a highlight reel for Harden’s candidacy for the Missouri Valley Player of the Year — she finished with 24 points on 50 percent shooting, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block in 39 minutes.
“It’s something about being a junior now,” Harden said. “Maybe last year I wouldn’t have been able to do that and understand when it needs to happen. You just sense the feel of the game now.”
Adams sounded almost envious in praising her players and their bond.
“I can only imagine playing with this team and having the togetherness on the court,” Adams said. “It’s got to be very rewarding and something you can trust that is going to be there. I couldn’t ask for a tougher team right now than what I have. They fight. They fight hard.”
LOYOLA (9-14, 5-6 MVC): Farley 4-8 4-4 15, Crosby 4-9 0-0 8, Hambric 4-9 7-9 15, Beavers 0-1 2-2 2, Booker 0-4 0-0 0, Soane 1-3 1-2 3, Faught 0-3 0-0 0, Smith 3-9 1-2 7. Totals 16-46 15-19 50.
WICHITA STATE (20-2, 11-0): Bonner 6-12 2-3 15, Jacobs 0-3 2-2 2, Harden 9-18 5-5 24, Price 3-9 2-2 8, Mi. Dapprich 4-13 3-6 11, Agnello 0-1 0-0 0, Decker 2-6 0-0 5, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Preston 0-0 0-0 0, Chapel 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-63 14-18 65.
Halftime—Loyola 30, Wichita State 29. Three-point shooting—LU 3-11 (Farley 3-5, Hambric 0-1, Beavers 0-1, Faught 0-2, Smith 0-2), WSU 3-17 (Harden 1-3, Bonner 1-4, Decker 1-4, Mi. Dapprich 0-6). Rebounds—LU 36 (Hambric 7), WSU 38 (Price 8). Assists—LU 12 (Beavers 4), WSU 13 (Harden 6). Fouls—LU 21, WSU 18. A—2,014.