ST. LOUIS, Mo. — As they were set to do battle with the Loyola (IL) Ramblers, the “notorious” 1st seeded Wichita State Shockers found themselves in the same Friday quarterfinal matchup for a third straight year.
However, for a good sized portion of the bout, Gregg Marshall’s group was in a predicament they had been in very few times during Missouri Valley Conference play. In other words, they were trailing.
Nonetheless, the Shockers’ were supplied monumental swishes from beyond the arc by leading scorer Ron Baker, which shifted momentum and provided a two-point lead with just under two minutes to go, in route to a 66-58 survival.
Capable of attacking no faster, Loyola (IL)’s Milton Doyle seized the tip-off, tapped the ball to himself, and quickly slammed it home for the first basket of the contest (2-0 LOY). Furthermore, a rare turnover by Fred VanVleet, led to another rim-rocker, this time by Montel James, to further portray the kind of challenger it would be for the black and yellow (4-0 LOY).
Yet, Wichita State did not trail for long in relation to the first half, for an almost seven minute scoring drought by the Ramblers allowed the previous to net 12 unanswered and possess a seven-point edge (14-7 WICH).
Although sharpshooter Devon Turk snapped the lull with a deuce, the Shockers continued to have more success on offense, resulting in a double-figure advantage following a pair of triples by Baker (27-15 WICH).
Fortunately for fans from Chicago, Turk threw two treys on the scoreboard to help pull Loyola (IL) within nine going into halftime (30-21 WICH).
The night before against Bradley, Ramblers’ “stud sophomore” Donte Ingram broke out of a first twenty minutes shooting slump to land the first haymaker of what was a new ballgame (the two were tied). This afternoon, he did the same exact thing.
Ingram, finishing with only six points rather than 19, made the first shot after halftime to spur an 11-4 attack (34-32 WICH).
While Wichita State senior Evan Wessel netted all five of his points to re-extend the gap to seven, momentum shifted as VanVleet picked up his third foul (15:35 left in the 2nd) and Loyola (IL)’s Turk propelled his team back in front with five more of his team-high 16 points (40-39 LOY).
In panic mode, Shockers’ head coach Gregg Marshall inserted 2015-16 Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year Fred VanVleet back into the contest just two minutes after returning to the bench in foul trouble. Yet, his presence on the court did not immediately change the matchup, for the Ramblers’ Earl Peterson canned a trey as the next score (43-39 LOY).
In fact, even though VanVleet made his first field goal attempt just before the halfway point in the second twenty, Porter Moser’s squad jumped back on their adversary with an Ingram three-pointer and made jumper from Ben Richardson, which in turn, made he score: Loyola (IL) 48, Wichita State 41.
The loud Shockers’ faithful was absolutely stunned. Was their team really about to head home on Day 2 and have a cloud of uncertainty following them until their name is or not called on Selection Sunday
No, not on this day!
Ron Baker, who made up for the scoring not available with his backcourt mate on the bench, single-handedly took over the game in the form of back-to-back three-pointers, which drew Wichita State within 2 with 4:27 remaining.
Later trailing by the same margin, Baker tickled the twine for a fifth time from beyond the arc to supply the first lead in 13 minutes! Again dealing with another stagnant stretch, Loyola (IL) was now the team in great danger of losing for everyone in attendance felt their grasp slipping away
And slip it ultimately did.
The Shockers put the final nail in the Ramblers’ coffin with nine made free throws out of ten in the final 1:12 while Loyola (IL) only had three points the rest of the half.
Shake N’ Baker
For a non-Wichita State Shockers’ fan, the lasting image of Ron Baker’s senior year is the three-time All-MVC 1st teamer struggling in three games at the Advocare Invitational without Fred VanVleet (USC, Alabama, and Iowa). Today altered the previously mentioned image drastically.
“As I walked off the court — and this is with every ounce of respect you could give, and I hope everyone takes this the right way. I gave Ron Baker a hug, and I said, ‘Dang you, Ron Baker,’ and I meant that with the utmost respect because that kid hit some daggers.”
—Loyola (IL) Ramblers’ head coach Porter Moser
Baker, the only Shocker having great success on offense, was truly the difference as coach Moser mentioned, for he made momentum draining off balanced treys from NBA range. Moreover, he was able to maneuver to the rim and finish in traffic versus on of “The Valley’s” best defenses.
“I had a pretty decent look, shot faked. I tried to draw some contact and was able to escape with my shoulders facing the rim and just shot the basketball, and it went in.”
—Ron Baker on his off-balanced three-point makes.
Also reaching double-figure point totals was Fred VanVleet and Zach Brown as they finished with ten points. In the post, Anton Grady had six points and six rebounds while Shaq Morris was an absolutely beast on defense with four rebounds and a career-high six blocks.
“Yeah, I just have to give credit to my teammates for helping me out, so I had to help them. I was just playing out defensive principles and just timing. That’s all it was on all the blocks.”
—Shaq Morris on his defensive performance.
Following a tremendous double-double the night before, Loyola (IL)’s Montel James was contained to six points and four rebounds in 29 minutes of action. Earl Peterson and Milton Doyle had ten points and Devon Turk ended with 16.
24-7 (16-2) Wichita State takes on the winner of Northern Iowa/Southern Illinois tomorrow at 3:30 PM EST.
He Said It (Part I)
“Sometimes you feel like you can’t catch a break. Sometimes you make bone headed plays, but you stick through it. My teammates supported me. My coaches supported me.”
—Fred VanVleet on his foul trouble.
He Said It (Part II)
“I think it helped out a lot just because we had a lot of guys that came back and played big minutes in that run. I think we have the experience to make a push in this tournament. We just fell short.”
—Milton Doyle on how last year’s CBI run helped when thrust into an environment such as Arch Madness versus Wichita State.
He Said It (Part III)
“There’s no question they should be in. To me, it’s not even a question.”
—Porter Moser on whether Wichita State deserves an at-large bid on Selection Sunday.