WICHITA, Kan. — They’re back and the whole Missouri Valley Conference is watching.
One day after being ranked in the Coaches’ Poll for a fifth consecutive season, the Wichita State Shockers extended their winning streak to 11 games defeating Evansville, 109-83. Shaq Morris’ 18 points led six Shockers who scored in double-figures.
“Obviously it’s a big night,” said Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall. “I don’t know if we have ever scored 109 against a defense that good. I don’t know if we have scored 109 period.”
Evansville led for 69 seconds. The Purple Aces had leads at 4-2 and 7-5 during the opening three minutes.
Wichita State recovered quickly, reeling off 12 unanswered. Landry Shamet nailed back-to-back triples following the first media timeout to surge the charge.
Marty Simmons’ group initially kept the Shockers within striking distance. Two three-point plays, one by Jaylon Brown and another from Ryan Taylor, had Evansville trailing 24-18 with 10:02 remaining.
Then, Wichita State remembered they were ranked.
Overwhelming the Purple Aces on a 22-8 burst, Gregg Marshall’s squad sprinted ahead to a 46-26 advantage. Conner Frankamp made three three-pointers during the eight-minute domination.
A halftime edge of 48-32 turned into a 25-point lead for the Shockers. Stud sophomore Markis McDuffie capped off a personal 4-0 run with a pair of free throws at the 16:43-mark.
Despite shooting an improved field goal percentage of 61.9 percent, Evansville could only play the cards to an 18-point margin.
Wichita State led by as many as 32 points in the second half.
“The Valley’s” leading scorer Jaylon Brown did all he could to dethrone the Shockers. The senior netted 25 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He has scored 22+ points in each of his last three contests and is averaging 20.6 points per game in February.
Freshman Dru Smith had a career-high of 19 points for Evansville.
“He was outstanding,” Purple Aces’ head coach Marty Simmons told the Evansville Courier & Press’ Daniel Allar of his first-year guard. “He made good plays against a really good team and good players.”
Wichita State had six scorers in double-figures. Junior Shaq Morris stuffed the stat-sheet with an 18-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist performance while fellow frontcourt mate Zach Brown had 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Conner Frankamp and Markus McDuffie posted 13 points apiece. Landry Shamet scored 12 points as Darrel Willis Jr. finished with 11 points in 12 minutes.
14-16 (5-12) Evansville finishes the regular season by hosting in-state rival Indiana State. The matchup will have major implications in MVC Tournament seeding.
“It has to hurt when somebody scores against you individually and collectively as a unit,” Simmons said. “Right now, for whatever reason, it’s not hurting enough.”
26-4 (16-1) Wichita State, who has already clinched a top-two seed, needs to win on Saturday versus Missouri State to have any chance of holding the first seed at Arch Madness.
All eyes are now turned towards Illinois State.
“(We have) one more game. If we can do well and win Saturday, we get at least a co-championship,” Marshall said. “Illinois State would need to win both of their games that they have to play.”
Currently, the Redbirds sit at 15-1 and hosts Southern Illinois tomorrow. ISU is coming off a two-point win versus Loyola on Sunday. College Court Report will have full coverage from Redbird Arena.
If Wichita State and Illinois State have the same record come Saturday evening, Sunday morning’s RPI will decide who possesses the number one seed.
– P. Wesner