Shaq Morris passed the basketball to his friend, raised three fingers while the shot sailed toward the basket and, without looking, ran back on defense.
“I didn’t even go rebound,” Morris said. “I had that much confidence in him.”
It was that kind of night for No. 25 Wichita State, where everything went right on senior night in a 109-83 win over Evansville at Koch Arena.
Senior J.R. Simon made three three-pointers, the first one assisted by Morris, his long-time friend and fellow Oklahoman, and the final two by fellow senior Zach Bush.
“I think God took over my body and he made a miracle out there,” Simon said.
Wichita State sent Simon and Bush out with style, making 13 of 23 three-pointers to set a single-season school record with 263. The Shockers committed a season-low three turnovers.
The Shockers stayed atop the Missouri Valley Conference and can clinch at least a share of their fourth title in a row with a win at Missouri State on Saturday. Illinois State is a half-game behind WSU entering its game against Southern Illinois on Wednesday. The Redbirds play at Northern Iowa on Saturday.
WSU (26-4, 16-1 MVC) won its 11th straight game, tied with two others for the sixth-longest in program history. The Shockers defeated Evansville for the ninth straight time.
Six Shockers reached double figures, led by Morris with 18 points. Conner Frankamp, Markis McDuffie and Rashard Kelly each scored 13 and Kelly added a career-high five assists.
Evansville (14-16, 5-12) lost its second straight game. Jaylon Brown scored 25 points for the Aces, making 10 of 11 foul shots.
Simon and Bush, who scored two points, represent the last links to the 2013 Final Four and 2014 team that went 35-1. They checked in with 7:06 to play to a standing ovation from fans and teammates, WSU leading 87-64.
WSU ran a play for Simon immediately and he curled into a three-point shot. He took the pass from Morris. The basket set a WSU season record with the team’s No. 261 from behind the arc. The 2010-11 NIT champions made 260.
“That first shot, especially because I was tight and it was wide open,” Simon said. “The hardest shots in basketball are the most wide-open ones. I just let it go and, luckily, it went in.”
WSU coach Gregg Marshall pulled the seniors in the final moments to they could soak in the hugs and applause. Both spoke after the game, holding framed jerseys. They lingered on the court long after the game, taking pictures with friends and family.
“That was special,” Bush said. “That made every hard day that I’ve had here absolutely worth it. There’s been a lot of them. It’s the hard way here and it shows that the hard way works because of how much we’ve won and the things we’ve accomplished.”
Marshall wanted to give Simon and Bush a chance to run with three starters late in the game to give them their best chance to shine.
“That first three that J.R. was a great execution of one of our quicks,” Marshall said. “He hits nothing but the bottom of the net.”
Games against Evansville used to turn into grinding slugfests, with the Aces determined to drag the Shockers into a half-court battle. The Shockers are too powerful on offense for the Aces this season.
Daishon Smith’s three gave WSU an 80-57 lead with 8:35 to play, a game’s worth of scoring in just over 30 minutes. The Shockers made 9 of their first 16 three-pointers.
Wichita State made 7 of 14 three-pointers in the first half on its way to a 48-32 lead. Frankamp made 3 of 4 and scored 11 points. Landry Shamet made all three of his threes for nine points.
The Shockers turned a six-point lead into a 17-point edge with a 17-6 run late in the half. A three by Kelly and two by Frankamp provided the biggest boost. Down 37-22, the Aces tried a zone defense for a few possessions before the Shockers ran them out of that approach.
Brown scored 10 first-half points for the Aces and Dru Smith added nine.
The Shockers committed only two turnovers in the first half and they scored nine points of six Evansville turnovers..