SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Dequon Miller was determined to leave JQH Arena with one final win.
Over the course of 40 minutes, he did all he could.
Miller’s performance of 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists was not enough as #25 Wichita State defeated Missouri State, 86-67.
The victory was the Shockers’ 17th Missouri Valley Conference win and clinched at least a co-share of the regular season championship.
“I thought everyone’s effort was there tonight. I thought we fought hard,” Miller said to Jim Connell of Springfield News-Leader. “I thought everybody played amazing tonight and our run is coming at Arch Madness.”
Despite Wichita State making six of its first eight shots, the Bears refused to hibernate. A total team effort kept the Shockers within a single-possession almost six minutes in.
Wichita State gradually pulled away as the half progressed. The Shockers surged behind a 53.6 percent first half shooting percentage and increased their advantage to ten with four minutes remaining.
Missouri State would not go away, however. Furthermore, a Ryan Kreklow triple spurred a 7-4 burst, which sent his squad to the locker room trailing 39-32.
Four more of Alize Johnson’s 18 points raised hope inside JQH Arena and dulled the Wichita State edge to three. The Bears looked as though they could do the impossible.
Then, the clock struck midnight.
Nonchalantly, the Shockers reeled off eight consecutive points to replenish the margin to 11. Sophomore Landry Shamet was instrumental during the run, scoring five of his game-high 23 points during the three-possession span.
Dequon Miller was unphased. He had been in this situation before. Solely trading punches with notorious Wichita State, the star from Charleston, West Virginia, made a jumper and a pair of triples.
“That’s fight. That’s not giving in and folding under pressure,” Miller said with his daughter Kali on his lap.
Kreklow followed the 8-2 explosion with another three-pointer to keep Missouri State within four.
The good times inside “The Q” soon ran out. The Shockers hit the highway and sped ahead of their opponent.
20 points in 7 minutes supplied Gregg Marshall with a 16-point gap as the clock trickled under six minutes.
Back-to-back Conner Frankamp three-pointers proved to be the final nails in the coffin, advancing the lead to 19 with 1:16 left.
Miller may not have won his final home game. But, the standing ovation from the crowd was as loud as if he had.
Wichita State shot 54.1 percent in an unselfish show. The Shockers had 20 assists on the day; five players had at least 3 individual assists.
Landry Shamet and junior Shaq Morris led the Shockers; both scored 20+ points. Shamet neared triple-double territory with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists while Morris supplied 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Conner Frankamp produced 14 points and 5 assists.
“Landry Shamet is a six [foot], five [inches] point guard. I think, one of these days, he will have the chance to be where those other two guys (Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker) are at,” said Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk. “I think he is that high level.”
Aside from Miller’s showcase of 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, MVC Newcomer of the Year candidate Alize Johnson posted his 16th double-double of the season. The JUCO transfer had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Stud sophomore Jarred Dixon stuffed the stat-sheet with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.
27-4 (17-1) Wichita State will likely possess the two seed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Illinois State, who also won today, currently has a higher RPI, which is the deciding factor between the two. The Shockers will play their quarterfinal matchup on Friday.
“I’m real proud of these young men,” said Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall. “For them to finish this grind of a regular season and conference 17-1 is quite an accomplishment.”
Currently, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Shockers as an 8-seed. Nevertheless, Shamet emphasized the need of his squad to take care of business.
“Because of the kind of scrutiny we have been under all year — the NCAA Tournament doubts. Are we a tournament team?” Shamet said. “We wanted to go out and leave no doubt. You can’t take no conference championship away from us.”
Although the 16-15 (7-11) Bears finished the regular season on a two-game losing streak, they enter Arch Madness as one of the most dangerous teams. Missouri State, playing the tournament in their home state, have eight players who average at least 5 points per game.
“If we give that kind of effort — the kind of effort we gave against Illinois State, we will be okay,” Lusk said. “We just got to wait and see where we’re at.”
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament begins on Thursday evening with a pair of first-round matchups. College Court Report will have full coverage live from the Scottrade Center.
– P. Wesner