Gregg Marshall talks about an old superstition he’s revived for this year’s NIT run
Markis McDuffie will finish his career back home.
McDuffie punched his ticket — and the Shockers’ — to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, courtesy of a game-high 21 points in Wichita State’s 73-63 victory over Indiana on Tuesday at Assembly Hall. McDuffie, a Paterson, N.J. native, grew up across the Hudson River from the Garden.
It wasn’t quite a wire-to-wire victory like it was at Clemson, but it was close: the Shockers led for the final 36 minutes. Freshman Dexter Dennis scored 17 points, including five three-pointers, to go along with a career-high six blocks and senior Samajae Haynes-Jones added 11 points, giving the Shockers a third double-digit scorer.
The sixth-seeded Shockers (22-14) will play the winner between North Carolina State and Lipscomb in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, April 2 with the championship game on April 4.
WSU is the first team in the tournament’s 82-year history to sweep the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in regional play. The Shockers can also become just the fourth school to win the NIT championship in consecutive appearances after winning the 2011 title in its last appearance.
Indiana made a second-half push in front of its home fans, scoring seven straight points to send Assembly Hall into a frenzy with the Hoosiers within 44-42 with 13:37 to play. Indiana would even come within one, 46-45, but McDuffie rose up and delivered a three-pointer.
Indiana pushed again, as Devonte Green drilled a three while being fouled. He had a chance to cap off a four-point play to tie the score at 51, but missed his free throw. On the other end, Dennis swished a three from the top of the key for a 54-50 lead with 8:09 remaining.
Another Indiana basket was answered by two points from WSU, then freshman Erik Stevenson found Dennis on a wrap-around pass for a wide-open three that extended WSU’s lead to 59-52 with 6:12 remaining.
WSU hurt Indiana’s defense in the pick and roll. The Hoosiers chose to help off perimeter shooters to prevent WSU from getting to the paint or passing to the rolling big man. That left inches of space available to shooters like McDuffie and Dennis.
The back-breaker came when freshman Erik Stevenson ran a pick-and-roll late in the shot clock and passed to Dennis, whose three-pointer pushed WSU’s lead to 65-57 with 2:44 remaining. Indiana would not get closer than seven points in the final three minutes, thanks to six free throws made by the Shockers.
Indiana led 10-9 after 10 minutes, but WSU rattled off nine consecutive points and Indiana fans were silenced. McDuffie drilled a jumper, then stole an entry pass, starting a fast break that ended with another improbable, twisting finish from the senior. Freshman Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler followed with a block, Haynes-Jones added a step-back jumper and McDuffie finished off the rally with a deep three from the right wing.
McDuffie ran down screaming, “This is my time” to the Wichita State bench.
WSU’s lead grew to as many as 11 when McDuffie was fouled behind the arc and made all three free throws for a 24-13 lead, but Indiana recovered with a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to 26-21 with 5:10 remaining.
With the offense sputtering, it was Stevenson who stepped up and drilled a three from the left wing to restore the lead to 29-21. Minutes later, McDuffie drilled another three, his third of the half.
Sophomore Asbjorn Midtgaard made the hustle play of the game late in the second half when freshman Jamarius Burton committed a turnover and Indiana threw ahead for what appeared to be a breakaway layup. But the 7-footer, with his giant strides, hustled to block the shot at the other end.
WSU took a 36-29 lead into halftime, which was quite the accomplishment considering the Shockers played the final 15 minutes with their starting center, Jaime Echenique, sitting on the bench with two fouls. WSU coach Gregg Marshall attempted to sub out Echenique, but game play kept rolling.
WSU answered Indiana’s challenges coming out of halftime. The Hoosiers cut the deficit to 36-31, then Dennis responded with a three. When Indiana scored on the next possession, Dennis again responded, this time by driving from the perimeter, absorbing contact and finishing at the rim with the foul. Another Indiana basket was answered by one from Midtgaard that gave WSU a 44-35 lead.