Wichita State Shockers

A look at Wichita State’s wildest and wackiest times in the MVC

We can’t walk out on the Missouri Valley Conference without a partial accounting of the memorable moments since the Shockers joined that ever-changing conference in 1945.

As one would expect after all those years and a multitude of buzzer-beaters, bad calls, temper tantrums and trophies, there is no shortage of highlights and lowlights.

It was crazy and fun and sometimes crazy fun for the Shockers and their fans. Wichita State officially joins the American Athletic Conference on Saturday. It’s a great move and we look forward to the competition. It will, however, take decades to replace these kind of memories.

Wild

Papke called it — The 1980s produced the fiercest days of the Wichita State-Tulsa men’s basketball rivalry.

The Hurricane, under coach Nolan Richardson, frustrated the Shockers with five straight wins before Antoine Carr guaranteed a win during his senior season and delivered a 92-74 decision on Jan. 13, 1983 at Levitt Arena.

That win started a three-game streak for the Shockers with Karl Papke winning the third on a running hook shot, banked in, with eight seconds to play on Feb. 2, 1984. WSU defeated No. 11 Tulsa 66-64.

“He made a helluva shot,” Richardson said that night. “I’d like to see him shoot that shot five or six times a night.”

Sycamores play short-handed — Indiana State won a 20-minute game of 4-on-5 basketball against Wichita State after ejections emptied the Sycamores’ bench in a 1989 game in Terre Haute.

The Shockers won the game 84-69, hanging on after Indiana State outscored them 44-43 in the second half. Eight Sycamores were ejected late in the first half, leaving Jeff Lauritzen, Jimmie Holliday, forward Townsend Harris and Ron Cheatham to finish the game.

“It was one of the most bizarre second halves I’ve ever coached,” WSU coach Eddie Fogler said that night. “I’ve never coached five against four. I probably had them way too tight. I mean, what are you going to do? Shoot jumpers or try to get it inside and get one guy fouled out to get them down to three?”

The fight started when Indiana State’s Darin Liles went after WSU’s Sasha Radunovich after a rebound. WSU’s John Cooper was ejected for throwing a punch. Liles and seven Sycamore bench players also got tossed.

Cheatham and Harris fouled out in the final minute to finish the game with two Sycamores on the Hulman Center court.

Man in Black turns heel — Shocker women’s basketball coach Darryl Smith against Southwest Missouri State women’s star Jackie Stiles provided a lot of drama.

Stiles, from Claflin, drew large crowds to Levitt Arena from 1997 to 2001 when the Bears visited. Smith, known for his big personality, big hair and black clothes, fought for the spotlight on his team, taking on the enormously popular player in ways her fans detested.

“This game appears to me about Jackie Stiles scoring 44 points, “ he said. “It doesn’t appear to me that the names on their jerseys even says ‘Bears.’ Because I haven’t heard of the Southwest Missouri Bears. I’ve just heard of the Jackie Stiles who plays for them.”

Wichita State coach lays down the law —Missouri State (then Southwest Missouri State) fans regarded Smith as brash and obnoxious for his outspoken ways. He won back some affection when he helped police catch a purse-snatcher during the 2002 conference tournament in Springfield.

Smith saw a young man running with a purse and told the bus driver to stop. He and an assistant coach cornered the man until police arrived.

Creighton’s clock — Wichita State performed mightily in the 2009 MVC Tournament in St. Louis, striving to erase years of bad memories and irrelevance.

Then Booker Woodfox spoiled things. Creighton won 63-62 to swat aside a 22-point Shocker rally and a fabulous second half by J.T. Durley.

Second-seed Creighton, down 62-61 after a Toure Murry three with nine seconds to go, inbounded the ball under its basket with 1.9 seconds to play. Woodfox took the pass and bobbled the ball in the corner. He dribbled twice to get past Murry, and floated up a shot.

“That was the longest 1.9 seconds I have ever seen, “ Shocker guard Clevin Hannah said.

The aftermath, which also included stopwatches, featured media members and athletic directors watching a replay in a TV truck and MVC commissioner Doug Elgin explaining the mess in a hallway in the Scottrade Center.

So close to imperfect — Unbeaten Wichita State trailed Missouri State 42-24 at halftime and 54-35 with 11:48 to play on Jan. 11, 2014. Ken Pomeroy’s calculations gave WSU a 7-percent chance of winning the men’s basketball game.

The sixth-ranked Shockers (16-0) went into the locker room and coach Gregg Marshall told them all the doubters across the nation saw the halftime scored and grinned.

“He was calm — ‘Let’s see what we’re made of,’ ” Fred VanVleet said. “A lot of people were watching — ‘It’s time for the streak to go down, blah, blah, blah.’ 

Not quite. The Shockers rallied to win 72-69 in overtime to handle the biggest obstacle to their 35-0 run, 18-0 in the MVC.

The Bears led 64-60 when the improbable became unbelievable in a frantic final minute. VanVleet missed a three. Chadrack Lufile grabbed the rebound, rising above MSU’s Nathan Scheer, and missed a putback. Cleanthony Early tried to follow in Lufile’s miss with a one-handed dunk that banged off the rim to Tekele Cotton.

He passed to VanVleet, who drove into the lane and ran into Scheer. The referee immediately signaled block and the ball appeared to hit the rim and spin up, over and in. VanVleet watched the replay many times and isn’t sure how that basketball found the bottom of the net. His three-point play brought WSU within 64-63 with 47 seconds to play.

“I just threw it up and it went in somehow,” he said. “I could have traveled. It could have been a foul. That’s just how the game goes — sometimes in your favor and sometimes not.”

Weird

Wu ejected — The Shockers defeated Southern Illinois 90-67 on Feb. 7, 1987.

The mascot got most of the attention. Officials ejected WuShock during the second half. Wu emerged from the tunnel, after two calls angered fans, wearing a zebra-striped shirt and blindfold and tapping a cane.

The gag did not amuse the officials, who told WSU administrators to remove the mascot from the arena.

Rainout goes to the Shockers — When you complain about how the MVC treated the Shockers, remember May 23, 1988.

That is the day the MVC chose WSU over Creighton for an NCAA baseball regional spot. Rain ruined the final day of the MVC Tournament, much to the ruination of the Bluejays.

Rain ended the first championship game at 3-all in the ninth. Rain continued the next day. When WSU and Creighton couldn’t finish the tournament, the NCAA told the MVC to designate an automatic qualifier.

The Valley chose regular-season champion Wichita State. Creighton, despite a 43-21 record, failed to get an at-large bid.

“It was complete devastation and the ultimate disappointment for the players, “ Creighton coach Jim Hendry said after the NCAA snubbed his team. “They feel they were deprived of something that was rightfully theirs.”

Still in the locker room — John Smith, a big man with a short and tumultuous career with Shocker basketball, stayed in the locker room for the second half of a 1992 game against Tulsa at Levitt Arena.

Fans watched the tunnel, waiting and wondering.

No Smith.

He argued with coach Mike Cohen (who announced his end-of-season resignation 13 days previously) early in the game. After halftime, Smith remained in the locker room. After the game, he announced his intention to return to South Carolina.

“I’m going home, “ Smith said that night. “Right now, I want to leave.”

Smith remained at WSU one more season, playing under new coach Scott Thompson.

Where is the mustard? — Forward Jamie Arnold spent the second half of his final game as a Shocker in the stands, at one time going to the concession stand for a hot dog and soda. One day later, coach Randy Smithson kicked him off the team with four games remaining in the 1997 season.

Smithson pulled Arnold late in the first half of a game against Evansville at Levitt Arena. The two exchanged words, and Smithson told Arnold to leave. He changed out of his uniform and sat two rows behind the bench during the second half.

The day after, Smithson dismissed Arnold after a 55-minute meeting in his office.

“Let’s just say I think Jamie and myself both think that we did the best we could,” Smithson said. “We just didn’t get it completely finished.”

Not worth a spit — A 1998 baseball game at Indiana State went haywire when the Shockers accused fans of spitting on them through openings in the dugout.

Twelve Shockers left the dugout and Casey Davis went into a public area to confront a fan. Coach Gene Stephenson suspended Davis for the remaining three games of the series, although not without sympathy.

“The same thing has happened, basically, on and off here for a lot of years and it has to do with the holes in the dugout,” Stephenson said. “We’ve had various types of liquid thrown on us in the past, we’ve been stuck with things. And this one had to do with someone spitting on somebody.”

The Jackie Chan game — The Shockers scored eight points in 40 seconds to defeat Illinois State 68-67 on Feb. 17, 2013 at Redbird Arena.

Illinois State, leading 67-60, kicked the game away.

With 40 seconds to play, officials called a Flagrant 1 personal foul on Jackie Carmichael, after he kicked Tekele Cotton, while rebounding to preserve a 65-60 lead. A foul called on WSU during the play gave the Redbirds two free throws and a seven-point edge.

Then a look at the replay monitor, urged by Marshall, revealed Carmichael’s footwork. Early made two foul shots to start an 8-0 run.

Early’s three-pointer with 5.2 seconds to play won the game, aided by a series of Redbird collapses and an officiating mistake (Cotton should have shot the foul shots) that led to a disciplinary action against the crew.

“He’s coming out the air, and Cotton’s there, and the foot goes to the face area,” Marshall said. “I’m glad they made the call.”

Wonderful

On the way to the NIT — Paul Scheer’s 22-foot jump shot in the final seconds gave the Shockers a 67-66 win at Oklahoma A&M (then an MVC opponent) in 1954.

The win — after nine straight losses in Stillwater — propelled the Shockers to the NIT, their first postseason berth as an NCAA Division I school. It showed the program could attain national status, less than a decade after leaving the small-college ranks to join the MVC in 1945.

“Everybody gets caught up in the hype on those things,” Scheer said in 2006. “(Coach) Ralph Miller called it a 30-foot shot. I brought the ball up and everybody was covered except for (center Merv Carman). I decided I’ll toss the ball into Merv, and I’ll fake and make a cut to the right and maybe he can get it back to me. I went to the right. I ended up about two feet behind the circle. Merv returned the pass to me, making it about a 22-foot shot.”

The Stallworth comeback — Dave Stallworth’s career of great basketball moments peaked against the MVC’s dominant team during its best era. He scored a then-school record 46 points in a 65-64 win over No. 1 Cincinnati in the Roundhouse on Feb. 16, 1963.

The win snapped Cincinnati’s 37-game win streak.

Stallworth scored the team’s final seven points as the Shockers rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 3:10.

“None of us let up for a second, “ said Stallworth, who credited point guard Ernie Moore for the victory. “If we had, we wouldn’t have won.”

Thanks, AC — Carr earned devotion from Shocker fans by staying for his senior season and declining the lure of the NBA — with WSU on probation and ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.

The hometown star departed Levitt Arena with a school-record 47 points in a 109-83 win over Southern Illinois in the season-ending game on March 5, 1983.

“Antoine Carr was the catalyst four years ago for us to construct a nationally prominent basketball program,” coach Gene Smithson said that night. “By him coming here, staying home, it attracted so many other fine basketball players.”

Don’t mess with X — Former Bradley coach Dick Versace accused Wichita State of padding Xavier McDaniel’s rebounding stats during the 1984-85 season.

That shade did not work out well for Versace. McDaniel relished his two games against Bradley, scoring 43 and 33 points and grabbing 20 and 22 rebounds that season.

“I was a fairly vocal coach in the media and on the court,” Versace said in 2013. “I tried to get to X and I said that they pad his stats. I didn’t know whether they did or didn’t. It got a little brouhaha going. He lays about 31 (points) and 17 (rebounds) on us. He comes by late in the game and said, ‘You’re going to pad those stats.’ I said, ‘OK, you won that one.’ 

Comeback again — There was a time when the Shockers felt great about the MVC basketball tournament.

Take 1987.

Wichita State trailed Creighton by 19 points in the first half at Levitt Arena and won 73-70. It trailed Illinois State by 15 points with 14:32 remaining in a semifinal at Levitt Arena. The Shockers won 56-53.

That sent WSU to Tulsa for a 79-74 overtime win and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Guard Gary Cundiff, who averaged 7.7 points, tied his career high with 17 to nab tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.

Audley to Mirabelli — Is there a more euphoric moment in Wichita State sports than Jim Audley’s throw to Doug Mirabelli to nail a Creighton runner at home plate in the 1991 College World Series?

Perhaps some equal it, but the range of emotions contained in that play is hard to top.

The Bluejays appeared to tie the game when Dax Jones singled with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning. Steve Bruns ran from second. Audley, running in from near the warning track, fielded the ball on a bounce in center field and threw to Mirabelli on one hop. Mirabelli, decoying the runner with a stance that said “no play at the plate,” grabbed the ball and tagged the sliding Bruns.

Out.

The play sucked most of the noise out of Rosenblatt Stadium — except from Shocker fans. One more out and the Shockers won 3-2.

Happy Valentine’s Day — Creighton frustrated the Shockers for years. On Feb. 14, 2006, Matt Braeuer struck back and launched a memorable month.

Braeuer stunned the Bluejays with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the corner. The 62-61 overtime win lifted Wichita State into first place in the MVC, a spot it never relinquished.

Two games later, it won its first MVC title since 1976. WSU also returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988.

Marshall turning point — Mark Jan. 17, 2009, as the dividing line between “Where is this thing going?” and “We’re hanging banners and sizing rings.”

On that day, the Shockers entered Koch Arena 0-6 in the MVC to play Creighton. A crowd of 10,502 greeted them with a roar and the Shockers played well enough to sustain the noise. WSU won 74-61 to start a three-game win streak and an 8-4 finish to the MVC schedule.

“At that point you start thinking to yourself, ‘Can we do this?’ ” former assistant coach Chris Jans said in 2013. “And players start thinking, ‘Am I in the right place?’ Coming out to a sold-out crowd and to beat your rival — to me that gave everyone a boost of confidence.”

WSU stood 4-20 in the MVC under Marshall before that game. It went 130-26 to finish its MVC tenure.

Closing time — Murry helped the 2009 revival with buzzer-beaters — both hitting the nets with no time remaining — to beat Evansville (51-50) and Missouri State (62-61) in a three-week span at Koch Arena.

First time — Shocker women’s basketball, softball and volleyball missed out on significant MVC success until the past 15 seasons. Coaching hires revitalized the programs.

WSU volleyball won its first MVC title with a 3-2 win over Missouri State on Nov. 10, 2004. A then-school record crowd of 1,828 in Koch Arena watched coach Chris Lamb’s team on its way to its first NCAA Tournament bid.

“We used to freak out with every win, “ senior hitter Sara Younes said. “And now, there we were, freaking out over a conference championship.”

It took women’s basketball several more years and the arrival of coach Jody Adams. WSU tied Creighton for the 2013 MVC title, its first. It won the MVC Tournament to wrap up the program’s first NCAA bid.

“This is a team that really loves each other, “ Adams said after winning the MVC Tournament. “They respect one another. They care about one another. They will lay their bodies on the line for one another. That’s when you know you have a special team in the making.”

Former softball coach Tim Walton pushed the Shockers into the NCAA regionals in 2005. Coach Kristi Bredbenner’s 2014 team won the program’s first MVC title in 2014 and the first MVC Tournament since 1989 in 2016.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

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