Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State shooters on alert with Northern Iowa’s stingy defense up next

Wichita State guard John Robert Simon goes after a loose ball against Loyola guard Earl Peterson.
Wichita State guard John Robert Simon goes after a loose ball against Loyola guard Earl Peterson. The Wichita Eagle

There will be no mystery or surprise strategy when Wichita State and Northern Iowa play in Saturday’s MVC Tournament semifinals. The Panthers are going to assign most of their team to guard Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet and give some open shots to other Shockers.

Evan Wessel, Zach Brown, Markis McDuffie will get shots, usually corner threes, if the Shockers move the ball quickly. Conner Frankamp will have chances to make jumpers. Northern Iowa will make those choices and gladly surrender those shots at the cost of swarming Baker and VanVleet when they venture into scoring territory.

In WSU’s 74-55 win at UNI, McDuffie defeated that strategy by making three three-pointers and scoring 15 points. Baker and VanVleet also thrived, combining for 5 of 7 threes. Baker scored 21 points and VanVleet added 12.

In UNI’s 53-50 win at Koch Arena, WSU made 7 of 31 threes. Baker (5 of 16) and VanVleet (3 of 15) shot poorly from the field under defensive duress and nobody else stepped up. Wessel missed both his threes, Frankamp all three of his and McDuffie made 1 of 4. Brown made 2 of 6 to score eight points.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall talks about his team's win over Loyola in the MVC quarterfinal.

“They had some shots they make plenty that they didn’t make in that game,” Panthers coach Ben Jacobson said. “We’ve got to do the best job we can with those two, and then we’re going to have to rebound. We can’t have it be where the rest of that lineup is getting easy plays, because they will make those plays.”

Uncertain future for SIU — Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson isn’t sure if his team will continue to play. State budget problems may limit the options.

SIU, with an RPI ranked No. 133, isn’t a likely NIT pick, despite its 22-10 record.

“We’re not going to get an invite to the NIT and we don’t deserve one,” Hinson said.

That could put SIU into the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, both of which require a fee to play a home game.

Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Shaq Morris talk about their hard-fought win over Loyola on Friday.

“We’re going to get a call next week from our state legislature and let us know the number that the budget is going to be cut,” Hinson said. “We are not going to play a tournament in which we have to buy at this time when people are losing their jobs. If we can raise the money privately, then possibly.”

Update the records — Baker continues his climb in the record book.

He scored 25 points, one short of his career high, to reach 1,586 for his career and move into ninth place on WSU’s list. He passed Jamar Howard (1,571 from 2001-05) and is 13 behind No. 8 Randy Burns (2001-05).

Wichita State needed to rally to beat Loyola during their quarterfinal game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

Wessel won his 107th game to tie Demetric Williams (2010-13) behind Tekele Cotton (120, 2011-15) and Fred VanVleet (118). VanVleet played in game No. 137, tied with J.T. Durley (2007-2010) for fifth.

Loyola’s Kansas connections comes up short — Loyola’s roster is littered with players with Kansas connections, and they were all big contributors in the Ramblers’ failed upset bid against Wichita State .

Coffeyville Community College products Montel James and Earl Peterson comibind for 16 points and nine rebounds. University of Kansas transfer Milton Doyle added 10 points and started for the first time in 18 games. Blue Valley Northwest product Ben Richardson came off the bench to score eight points, including a three-pointer that put Loyola up 55-51 with 4:01 left in the second half.

“(WSU) is just a real disciplined team,” Doyle said. “It’s hard to play against a team that doesn’t make too many mistakes, and if you do make a mistake, they feed of of it.”

Close enough — Since a 53-50 home loss to Northern Iowa on Feb. 13, Wichita State has steamrolled its competition, winning five consecutive games by an average of 26.4 points.

Which is why the takeaway from Friday’s 66-58 win over Loyola was so positive — the Shockers trailed in the second half and came back to win in a game where they were plagued by foul trouble and bad shooting most of the way. And they finally had to play a close game.

“I think it’s good because in some games, earlier this year, we got ahead and we lost,” Wessel said. “We weren’t able to get down and come back. Hopefully it means we’ve matured a little bit. We definitely didn’t play our best, and their are definitely things we need to work on for tomorrow, but I like our resiliency. I like that we were able to come back, find a way to win and use as many players as we did. I think it says a lot about our team.”

Taking root in the lane – Illinois State’s strong February ended with a miserable shooting performance in March.

After a day of close games, sixth-seeded Indiana State grabbed the first upset with a 65-57 win over third-seeded Illinois State. The Redbirds missed 44 of 64 shots, 24 of 33 from the behind the arc.

“When teams pack it in, you’ve got to make shots,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. “The pressure got to us a little once we got a deficit. We had a lot of frustrated play.”

Indiana State (15-16) drew its man to man in to close down driving lanes and force jumpers. The approach lured the Redbirds (18-14) into quick shots and the more they missed the harder it got.

“Everybody was jacking up quick shots,” forward DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell said. “They weren’t falling.”

The Sycamores play second-seeded Evansville in the semifinals and try to return to the title game as they did in 2011 and 2014.

Illinois State’s next move is uncertain. Muller said there are tournaments he would decline an invitation to, although he wasn’t specific. With an RPI ranked No. 121, Illinois State is not likely to receive an NIT bid.

The Redbirds won five games in a row before losing three of four.

Six enter MVC hall — Loyola basketball player Jerry Harkness, Missouri State basketball player and coach Bill Thomas, Bradley basketball player Anthony Parker, Illinois State baseball player Dave Bergman, Evansville soccer coach and player Mick Lyon and Illinois State distance runner Sue Daggett Miller were introduced as members of the MVC Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

Tony Adame: 316-268-6284, @t_adame