By Kevin Sweeney
Indiana State has been one of the most enigmatic teams in college basketball. The Sycamores knocked off a very good Butler team and fell just short against Power 5 foes Iowa State & Stanford. However, they have had some inexplicable losses, including a blowout defeat at the hands of Western Kentucky. Tonight, the good Sycamores showed up, and it took a career game by Darral Willis Jr. to stop Indiana State from upsetting the 3-time defending Missouri Valley regular season champions in Wichita State.
It was clear from the outset that Indiana State would give the Shockers all they could handle, as a quick 8-0 run gave the Sycamores an early 15-9 lead. The teams traded spurts throughout the half, as Indiana State used some big 3-pointers to hang tough despite a big first half by Willis, who had 15 of his game-high 25 points in the opening stanza. After a 3-point play by Willis gave the Shockers their largest lead of the half, 32-26 with just over 4 minutes to play, the Sycamores responded with a half-closing 12-6 run to tie the game at 38 going into intermission.
The Shockers began to pull away early in the second half, using a 15-3 run to take a 58-47 advantage, their first double-digit lead of the game. It was highly-touted sophomore Markis McDuffie, who had struggled to live up to the considerable hype so far this season, who keyed the run, scoring 6 points and grabbing a pair of rebounds during the run. McDuffie finished with a season high in points with 22. The Shockers never trailed after that run, but the Sycamores put up a very strong fight. Using the 3 to their advantage, 5 out of the next 6 field goals by Indiana State were triples, with a deep 3 by Jordan Barnes trimming the Shockers’ lead to just two with 3:42 to play in the game. That was as close as the Sycamores would draw, as Wichita State got stops when they needed to and made their free throws to close the game strong.
One major factor in the game was rebounding. The Shockers held a 47-30 advantage on the boards, including snatching 16 offensive rebounds that led to numerous second-chance opportunities.
Wichita State’s attack was dominated by Willis’s 25 points & McDuffie’s 22. Landry Shamet added 14 for the Shockers, who move to 11-3 on the season.
Indiana State used a balanced attack, with six players recording at least 7 points. Brenton Scott led the way with 14 points, while Everett Clemons stuffed the stat sheet with 5 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists. The loss leaves the Sycamores 6-7 on the season.