Sunday’s box score
No. 2 WSU 83, Indiana St. 69
Percentages: FG .411, FT .714. 3-Point Goals: 8-19, .421 (Gant 4-6, Eitel 1-1, Kitchell 1-1, Arop 1-2, Cummings 1-5, Smith 0-1, Brown 0-1, Odum 0-2). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 3 (Kitchell 2, Cummings). Turnovers: 9 (Arop 2, Gant 2, Smith 2, Kitchell, Odum, Eitel). Steals: 4 (Cummings 2, Brown 2). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .450, FT .714. 3-Point Goals: 9-22, .409 (Cotton 4-6, VanVleet 4-6, Early 1-3, Bush 0-1, Baker 0-6). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 3 (Baker 2, Early). Turnovers: 7 (Cotton 2, Baker 2, Early 2, VanVleet). Steals: 7 (Baker 2, VanVleet 2, Early, Wessel, Cotton). Technical Fouls: None.
A—12,125. Officials—John Higgins, Gerry Pollard, Kipp Kissinger.
Cotton first on the list
The Missouri Valley Conference, for reasons unknown, didn’t name an all-tournament team in 1985 or 1987 when WSU won. That makes junior Tekele Cotton the Shockers’ first Most Outstanding Player in the event.
Cotton scored 20 points, one shy of his career high, on Sunday after scoring 13 in the semifinal against Missouri State and 11 against Evansville on Friday. He made 10 of 15 three-pointers in the tournament. Teammates Fred VanVleet and Cleanthony Early, Evansville’s D.J. Balentine and Indiana State’s Jake Odum also made the team.
Cotton is shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range after enduring a 2-for-16 stretch in MVC play. Like last season, his shot is rounding into form in March. That is forcing defenses to honor him, instead of labeling him a non-shooter.
“It’s not a good feeling to have when people are sagging off you,” he said. “You’ve got to work on your shot and be comfortable shooting your shot.”
Gant good to go
Indiana State’s Justin Gant survived a Saturday night trip to the hospital to play on Sunday, according to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. An SIU player inadvertently poked him in the left eye during the semifinal game.
While he kept playing, the injury worsened during the evening. The eye began to fill with blood, sending Gant to a hospital. After doctors checked him out, he was cleared to play without protective eyewear.
“Initially, it was all right,” he said. “After the game, I had some bleeding and a little pressure on the eye.”
Gant, a junior center, scored 18 points and 4 of 6 threes. In two regular-season games, he went 2 for 14 against WSU.
“It didn’t affect me,” he said. “I got plenty of rest.”
Odum’s final exit
WSU’s Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet led the cheering from the court when Indiana State’s Jake Odum checked out in the final minute.
They clapped and urged fans to stand up for Odum, a senior who started four seasons for the Sycamores and earned All-MVC honors twice.
“I was just trying to give him some love, because he deserved it,” Baker said. “He’s had a really strong four years at his university. He’s put up special numbers.”
Odum likely played much of the second half with a broken index finger on his right hand. The injury happened when he tried to draw a charge on Baker early in the second half. Baker landed on him. Odum went to the bench, told coaches he may have broken his hand, and went to the locker room. He returned a few minutes later and checked in.
“Jake’s not one to complain about much,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “Obviously, it really bothered him.”
Odum brushed off the injury.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “I might have let it affect me a little bit too much out there.”
Tick, tick, tick
VanVleet is great on deadline, as he proves again and again when the shot clock hits single digits.
On Sunday, he made a three to hold off Indiana State’s final push with the shot clock about to expire. From in front of WSU’s bench, the basket gave the Shockers a 75-64 lead and answered one from the Sycamores.
“I’m just trying to get the ball up on the rim and get a shot up,” he said. “We had four or five bad possessions in a row and nobody was taking shots. I just was a little bit more aggressive. The ball dropped.”
The ball also drops when VanVleet gets a big man guarding him. The Sycamores switched defenders when the Shockers screened, often putting a center on VanVleet. He made two threes over Gant after threatening to drive before pulling up.
“Fred sees that and he’s like a kid in the candy store,” Baker said. “He’s making all the right decisions.”