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 No. 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.”
SPRINGFIELD, MO. — Ever since his arrival on campus, Ronnie Rousseau III had been a big piece of the rotation for the Missouri State Bears in 2016-17.
He transferred to the Bears from State Fair Community College, where he averaged 23.2 points per game as a sophomore, earning him NCJAA Division I Second Team All-American honours in the process. Along with the likes of Alize Johnson, the Bears landed some talented jUCO transfers for this season.
Now, for the second time this season, fans of the Bears showed their love and appreciation for the effort their players give on the hardwood.
The Bears have looked like a top contender in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, and they took two more steps towards the conference title this past week. Wins over the Indiana State Sycamores on the road, and the Bradley Braves at home, the Bears improved to 5-3 in conference play.
A big reason for their two wins was the play of senior Dequon Miller. The native of Charleston, W.V. set a new career-high with 24 points against the Sycamores, and then matched it against the Braves just three days later.
NORMAL, Ill. — Entering Wednesday night’s full schedule, three teams were a perfect 2-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play.
Two of them faced off at Redbird Arena.
In a matchup that gave fans a taste of Arch Madness, Missouri State went cold at the wrong time, scoring just 4 points in the final 3:40, and was defeated, 74-71. Jarrid Rhodes led the way with 19 points.
“They were really good defensively,” said Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk. “I give them a lot of credit, they are good defensively. But, we had some opportunities in overtime. We didn’t capitalize.”
Both teams came out of the gates scoring; a total of 20 points were scored before the first media timeout.
A triple by Paris Lee, his second in the opening minutes, pushed the Redbirds ahead, 15-8. Daouda Ndiaye’s only point supplied a game-high nine-point lead at the 11:59-mark in the first half.
Although Missouri State’s offense was stagnant during an eight-minute segment, the Bears eventually broke out of their slump.
Spurred by two points from Alize Johnson, Missouri State went on a 10-0 run. Back-to-back triples by Jarrid Rhodes and Dequon Miller continued the offense while a layup by Jordan Martin capped it off and provided a 24-23 edge.
The Bears, despite seven made Illinois State free throws, kept an advantage going into halftime, 34-32.
As the second half opened, Missouri State and Illinois State could not miss coming out of the break. The teams, upping the ante, combined for 30 points in the first five minutes. At the same time, the Redbirds knotted the score at 48.
For the majority of the half, the two squads traded baskets. Or, that was until five of Deontae Hawkins‘ 20 points propelled the Redbirds to a two-possession lead with 9:40 left in regulation. The two offenses appeared unstoppable.
Then, out of nowhere, offensive lulls affected both teams. In fact, for nearly five minutes, neither team scored a single point.
Thankfully, Missouri State’s Rhodes broke the drought, pulling the Bears within two. Moments later, back-to-back triples, one from Chris Kendrix and another by Rhodes, provided the first lead since 11:18 remaining in the second half.
Four unanswered by Illinois State seized a two-point advantage, 64-62.
Following a Kendrix turnover and missed jumper by Miller, Lusk’s crew had one last chance to take the lead or force overtime.
Rhodes answered the call.
Driving left, the junior swished a fadeaway above the elbow, tying the score.
We were heading to overtime.
Despite Rhodes opening up the five minutes with a three-pointer, seven unanswered Illinois State points put the Redbirds up four with a minute left. All Illinois State had to do was make free throws and they would win the game. The task turned out to be easier said than done.
“I was shooting them regular,” said Illinois State’s MiKyle McIntosh, who missed five free throws in the final minute. “They were going in and out, so it was getting me frustrated. I think, towards the end, I was kinda thinking too much.”
By making just 3-of-10 free throw attempts in the final minute, the Redbirds left the door open for the Bears to again force an extra period.
Ryan Kreklow, who made three triples starting for Ronnie Rousseau III, air balled a game-winning attempt at the horn. The sophomore was trying to draw a foul as Illinois State looked to send him to the free throw line.
A red sea of 4,107 erupted.
Illinois State’s “Big Three” of MiKyle McIntosh, Deontae Hawkins, and Paris Lee combined for a total of 52 points and 23 rebounds. McIntosh, who made a career-high 10 free throws, scored a season-high 21 points on the night while Hawkins posted 20.
Even with Missouri State’s Dequon Miller neutralizing him, Paris Lee recorded his second double-double of the season. Unlike his first, rebounds was the category that complemented his 11 points.
“We were boxing out for him [while] he was running in there getting the rebounds,” said McIntosh of Paris Lee’s 10-rebound evening.
In total, the Redbirds shot 34 free throws, as opposed to 7 by Missouri State. Moreover, 23 of Illinois State’s 74 points came from the charity stripe.
“Overall, they just killed us getting to the foul line,” Lusk said.
After a 1-of-4 start, Jarrid Rhodes had his best game in a Bears’ uniform. The JUCO transfer scored 16 of his 19 in the 2nd half and overtime. The junior appears to be finding his groove in Division I basketball and is averaging 12 points per game in his past three.
“There was no pressure out there,” said Rhodes. “Guys would just see me — Dequon Miller, Ryan Kreklow. I just felt really comfortable out there on both ends.”
Outside of Rhodes, only Ryan Kreklow ended up in double-digits. He had 11 points.
Following a 30-point, 15-rebound performance, Alize Johnson was contained to 7 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.
“The guys that were out — they were doing a nice job,” explained Lusk of Johnson’s limited playing time. “They went to some zone and the guys that were out there had it figured out. We did some good stuff. We rode those guys.”
Senior Dequon Miller tied a career-high with 8 assists.
Still undefeated in conference play, 11-4 (3-0) Illinois State is flying on a 4-game winning streak. The Redbirds will take flight to Terre Haute, Indiana, to face the Indiana State Sycamores on Saturday. Illinois State has not won at the Hulman Center since 2007.
11-5 (2-1) Missouri State, now 0-1 in 2017, travels home for a two-game homestand versus Southern Illinois and Evansville.
“It’s one game. It’s about what I thought our guys would do,” Lusk said. “It was good to see. when we struggled in this environment early on, how we responded. This team is going to keep growing.”
In a game they led from start to finish, Missouri State fended off Northern Iowa, 68-63. Star senior Dequon Miller scored a team-high 17 points in the win while sophomore Ryan Kreklow iced the contest with four free throws.
“It’s huge,” said Kreklow about the win to Jim Connell of Springfield News-Leader. “1-0 in ‘The Valley’ so far — We’ve got a long way to go, but I think it shows that we’re growing a lot as a team.”
With the success of our annual College Court Report Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year fan votes fresh in our minds, we felt like bringing that energy and level of fan engagement to the regular season.
Introducing, for the first time, the College Court Report Fan-Voted Player of the Week awards!
It’s easy for us to sit back and pick who we feel is our Player of the Week (it’s harder than you may think), but it means more to the players when it comes from the fans themselves. Having fan support goes a long way for the players, and this is a great way to showcase said support.
Each Sunday, we will pick four or five players who fans can then vote for on our Twitter page. On Monday, we will announce our Player of the Week pick, plus the Fan-Voted Player of the Week. (*Note: our personal pick won’t be included in the list of players),
This week’s winner will go down as the first ever winner of the award, and he was also making his collegiate debut at the Division I level on opening weekend.
Junior forward Alize Johnson had his talents on full display on opening weekend, helping lead the Missouri State Bears to a perfect 2-0 record.