ST. LOUIS --- They have had the smallest crowds, the fewest students and at times, the sloppiest play in the Missouri Valley Tournament field. But on Saturday, Indiana State threw a wrench in the tournament’s presumed Missouri State-Wichita State final, by defeating the Shockers 61-54 in St. Louis.
Buoyed by an 18-1 run early in the second half, Indiana State is now headed to its first conference tournament final in a decade and a chance to be the next team to deny Missouri State’s its coveted NCAA Tournament bid. The Sycamores were led by their inside-outside combination of Myles Walker and Jake Odum, each of whom hit big shots down the stretch in the second half to help pull away to the win.
The huge surprise was Walker, who scored a career high 14 points in the game. Walker has been an inconsistent presence all season, scoring in double figures only three times previously. But on Saturday, he was a dominant figure, hitting two crucial shots when Wichita State narrowed the Sycamores’ lead to two late. His ability to score created late double teams and allowed Indiana State shooters the open looks needed to hold on in the games’ final minutes.
The win sends Indiana State to the final on Saturday versus Missouri State, but the future of Wichita State is much murkier. The Shockers were likely just on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble coming into the tournament and the loss to Indiana State does nothing to help its resume. Gregg Marshall’s team scheduled ambitiously early in the season and without question had the deepest and most talented roster in the Missouri Valley. But its loss on Saturday was indicative of a season in which all did not quite click, and the team was left not quite reaching its vast potential.
Missouri State 60 Creighton 50
Missouri State is just one game away from finally reaching its goal of making the school’s first NCAA Tournament since 1999. After the Bears trailed by 8 at halftime, the duo of Jermaine Mallet and Kyle Weems help spur their second substantial comeback of the Missouri Valley Tournament. Mallet scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Weems added 15 points and 7 rebounds in the comeback victory.
As in Friday’s game versus Southern Illinois, Missouri State was completely out of sorts for most of the contest, looking nothing like the team that won the regular season conference title. But in the second half, coach Cuonzo Martin once again changed the team’s offensive strategy, allowing for more one on one opportunities for his star players and overwhelming Creighton’s slower defenders. Missouri State scored efficiently, shooting 50% from the field in the half and committing only one turnover, allowing it to cruise to the championship game.
Posted by MATT JONES
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