Wichita State’s response to two losses in three games is now obvious for the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference to consider.
Three straight victories of 30 or more points followed WSU’s worst stretch of conference play since 2013. On Sunday, the Shockers routed Indiana State 84-51, a victory so complete the Sycamores never led and never played as if they considered that possibility.
The win wrapped up WSU’s third consecutive Missouri Valley Valley Conference title, and its fourth in the past five seasons. The Shockers (21-7, 14-2 MVC) are the top seed in the MVC Tournament for a third season in a row.
“Losses like that, you’ve got to look in the mirror,” WSU forward Rashard Kelly said. “It gave us a sense of urgency and focus. When you’ve got a group of guys like we’ve got on the same page, you’re going to see a lot of nights like this, because everybody is hungry.”
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After the game, 30 or so fans crowded into and around the locker room for the traditional “Hey, ho, here we go” victory chant. The celebration recognized the MVC title briefly. The elevated mood is much more about a team that knows it needs to keep winning to secure an NCAA Tournament berth and rediscovered its mojo after losses to Illinois State and Northern Iowa.
“We came out with a lot of fire,” WSU forward Markis McDuffie said. “No more negative energy. (Coach Gregg Marshall) said if he saw any more negative energy, he was going to take us out. The body language was bad, blaming it on other people instead of what we were doing ourselves.”
All the Shockers bodies looked good on Sunday as they handed Indiana State its fifth straight loss and its largest loss in the Hulman Center in the 39 games of the series. The Shockers played superb defense, efficient, unselfish offense and the Sycamores (13-15, 7-9) rarely resisted.
“They’re doing the things right and we’re a little bit of a shell of the basketball team we were a few weeks ago,” Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said. “I know our enthusiasm for our teammates wasn’t there and I’m not sure how hard we played.”
Ron Baker led WSU with 14 points, 12 in the first half. Shaq Morris, Zach Brown and Markis McDuffie each added 11 in WSU’s eighth straight win over the Sycamores, one short of its record in the series.
Fred VanVleet totaled eight assists and has 601 in his career, tied for seventh on the MVC career list. WSU recorded 20 assists on 29 baskets and outscored Indiana State by 10 points at the foul line.
Brenton Scott led the Sycamores with 14 points.
WSU held the Sycamores to 31-percent shooting and limited the Valley’s fastest-paced team to its second-lowest score of the season. Indiana State made 18 of 58 shots and committed 14 turnovers.
“We had great energy, passion and focus, and that’s what we talked about coming out of the locker room.” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
Indiana State is the Valley’s fastest-paced team and it possesses several guards who love to rebound and push the ball. That rarely happened on Sunday. The Shockers committed four turnovers, rarely took bad shots and hustled on defense to deny Indiana State good shots.
“They are really good in transition,” Marshall said. “They feed off that. The (stat sheet) says zero fast-break points. I don’t know if I believe that, but if we can hold them under 10 that’s good.”
The Shockers led 44-26 halftime and scored the first seven points of the second half to finish the job.
Wichita State went to Anton Grady when it pulled away in the first half. He made two short jumpers to give WSU a 16-9 lead and added another for a 20-11 lead.
The Shockers led 24-13 when the Sycamores stumbled again, a sequence started by an airball by Matt Van Scyoc. The Shockers threw a press at the Sycamores and Van Sycoc walked. Evan Wessel scored for a 26-13 lead.
After ISU’s Brandon Burnett walked, Morris made a 15-foot jumper to put the Shockers up 28-13.
WSU pushed the lead to 20 points on two free throws by McDuffie, following a stretch in which the Sycamores missed three shots and committed two turnovers.
The Shockers led 44-26 at halftime after making 16 of 32 shots and 9 of 12 foul shots. They held Indiana State to 9-of-2 8 shooting and forced seven turnovers. The Sycamores went 2 for 13 from three-point range.