Key statistics: The Sycamores totaled eight assists, 16 turnovers and 19 baskets. Its 6-of-21 three-point shooting (28.6 percent) is its worst since a Dec. 19 win over Saint Louis.
How the game turned: Two nice plays by Wichita State center Anton Grady set up a game-deciding burst. Against a half-hearted Sycamores half-court trap, Grady passed to Evan Wessel near the basket, who drew a foul. His free throws put the Shockers up 43-37 with 16:06 to play.
The Sycamores went back to center Brandon Murphy, who had just completed a three-point play. Grady held his ground and forced Murphy to miss badly. The Shockers pushed the ball for a three-point play by Ron Baker.
After a Sycamores turnover, Grady made two free throws to give the Shockers an 11-point lead. After a bad shot by Indiana State’s Devonte Brown, Fred VanVleet beat the defense to get Zach Brown a layup and a free throw.
Records: ISU 10-8, 4-2 MVC; WSU 12-5, 6-0
Stat that might surprise you: Indiana State, according to the statistics, wasn’t credited with a fast-break basket. The Sycamores need those baskets and are skilled getting them with guards who rebound well and run the break.
Baker said the scout team, after baskets, didn’t bother inbounding the ball during preparation for Indiana State. They grabbed it and ran to get the Shockers ready to retreat and organize quickly.
“That was a big emphasis watching film,” Baker said. “We knew that was one of their strengths. We practiced transition defense all week long.”
Stat that shouldn’t surprise you: VanVleet continued a career of scorching the Sycamores with a career-high 29 points, five assists and no turnovers. In eight games, he is 40 of 79 from the field and 15 of 27 from three-point range. He has 30 assists and nine turnovers.
He was particularly dangerous with fast breaks, taking advantage of any lapse by the Sycamores.
”I try to stay in attack mode,” VanVleet said. “As we kept pushing it and pushing it, I don’t think their rotation was very deep, as far as the (big men) so those guys started wearing down. Instead of being 5-on-5 in transition, it started being 5-on-3 and 5-on-2.”
Freshman watch: Markis McDuffie took only two shots and scored two points. This was senior night at Koch Arena.
Why they’re All-Americans: In addition to his scoring, VanVleet guarded Devonte Brown, Indiana State’s top scorer and led a swarm of defenders that forced Brown into a 3-of-9 shooting night and five turnovers. Baker turned in a find all-around game with 16 poinnts, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Rotation watch: Sophomore forward Rashard Kelly grabbed seven rebounds, his most since November.
McDuffie and Conner Frankamp continued their odd pattern of scoring big on the road and less so at home.
McDuffie is 3 for 10 in three MVC home games. Frankamp is 5 for 13 in three home MVC games.
Around the MVC:
It’s a big week for the Sycamores, who play at Southern Illinois on Wednesday and play host to Evansville on Sunday. Both opponents are 5-1 in the MVC. Indiana State needs at least a split. A sweep changes the dynamic of the MVC race.
Next up: at Northern Iowa (10-9, 2-4), 7 p.m. Wednesday (Cox 22, KEYN, 103.7-FM).
If the season ended today, the Panthers finish seventh and play on Thursday in the MVC Tournament — with wins over North Carolina and Iowa State. UNI has lost four of five games, including 51-41 at home to Loyola on Saturday.