ST. LOUIS, Mo. — 37 points.
In two games against Wichita State, Missouri State had been defeated by 18 and 19 points, respectively.
Today was another verse to the same song.
The Bears (17-16, 7-11), held to 37.9 percent from the floor, were eliminated from Arch Madness, 78-63. The Shockers (29-4, 17-1) will play top-seeded Illinois State Sunday for a chance to etch their name into the NCAA Tournament field of 68.
“I’d like to congratulate Missouri State on a very hard-fought game,” said Shockers’ head coach Gregg Marshall. “They worked extremely hard. The game ended up being 15, but I thought it was a very close game and a very well played game on both ends.”
Missouri State’s Jarred Dixon, who sealed Friday’s night game with six free throws, started the offense. The sophomore swished back-to-back jumpers to ignite a scoring explosion.
Jarrid Rhodes made consecutive field goals to open a 9-0 lead prior to Alize Johnson netting a triple. The Bears were up 12-2 on the 21st ranked team in the nation.
As the impatience of Shocker Nation grew, the large advantage did too. A triple by All-MVC first teamer Landry Shamet was answered by another from Alize Johnson.
“It was great for us to get the first punch, but we knew they were going to come back with another,” said Missouri State senior Dequon Miller. “I thought that was going to help us get a little momentum and get going, but like I said before, Wichita (State), they’re big and deep.”
“The Yellow Sea” was rocking with outrage. Then, Conner Frankamp changed the game.
As a freshman at Kansas, Frankamp made four three-pointers inside Scottrade Center during the round of 32. He did two better this afternoon.
“He’s as good a shooter as I’ve ever been around. I’ve been doing this now 32 years,” said Marshall. “When the ball comes out of his hand, it looks like it’s going in from my vantage point.”
Frankamp made the first of six three-pointers at the 13:53-mark, spurring a 15-2 domination. The homegrown product nailed two treys before passing the hot hand to Markis McDuffie. McDuffie would give the Shockers their first lead with a pair of free throws.
Missouri State and Wichita State traded baskets for the ensuing minutes. Or, that was before an Austin Reaves old-fashioned three preceded another Frankamp trey, opening the gash to seven.
Three minutes later, a Rashard Kelly dunk advanced the advantage to double-figures, 35-25. The game was close to being decided.
But, then the Bears stormed back.
Sealing a near perfect final three minutes, Missouri State shut out the Shockers while stringing together seven points. This game was anything but over.
“They hung with it. They bounced back,” said Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk. “I thought we came out and showed a lot of pride, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Within two minutes into the second half, Dequon Miller pulled the Bears within two with his final basket.
Shaquille Morris pushed the margin back to three possessions with a pair of jumpers. Then, eight of McDuffie’s 15 points returned the lead to double-figures with 12:58 remaining.
“I hit one, so I’m like (let’s) see if I can hit another one,” McDuffie said. “Then I started feeling it, so I started gaining more confidence.”
Missouri State played well throughout. On many occasions, they withered the lead, just for the Shockers to respond.
However, once the second half trickled under ten minutes, the Bears never came closer than 11.
Wichita State finished the game with a 19-12 segment. Frankamp’s final triple supplied the Shockers with a game-high 18-point lead and started a Saturday night Shocker party.
All-MVC first teamer Alize Johnson finished his first season in maroon with a 16-point, 7-rebound, and 7-assist performance. Johnson shot an efficient 5-of-11. Sophomore Jarred Dixon produced 20 points, averaging 15 points per game during Arch Madness. Senior Dequon Miller had 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The trio of Shaquille Morris, Conner Frankamp, and Markis McDuffie supplied 54 of Wichita State’s 78 points. All-MVC first teamer McDuffie scored 15 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Frankamp totaled 18 points while fellow junior Morris had a game-high 21 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
“He was really, really good today. I mentioned it to two referees that rotated in front of me,” Marshall said of Morris. “I said, ‘You would not believe how far that kid has come.'”
#21 Wichita State will close the curtains of Arch Madness with their third and final matchup versus Illinois State. The teams split the season series. The Redbirds won by 14 points in Normal, Illinois, and the Shockers returned the favor with a 41-point beatdown at Charles Koch Arena.
Tomorrow’s game starts at 2 p.m. EST and can be viewed on CBS.
– P. Wesner