Entering Saturday night’s game with Missouri State, the Wichita State Shockers had the inside track at being this season’s mid-major “darling”. After all, they were 16-0 and already ranked #6 in the country by the coaches, and with players that any college basketball diehard would know from past seasons, they have an increasing cache around the country. However, things definitely weren’t easy for the Shockers in Springfield, Missouri.
Wichita State fell behind by a staggering 18-point margin at the half, as Missouri State blitzed them with 42 points in the opening 20 minutes. However, the Shockers never stopped fighting, erasing the deficit with their own 18-point advantage in the second half to force overtime, and in the end, they outlasted the home team by a 72-69 score in overtime.
It was a purely “grit” performance from WSU, as their offensive numbers left a lot to be desired. The Shockers shot just 35% from the field and 22.7% from beyond the arc, but they won the rebounding battle convincingly, giving the additional opportunities needed to sustain offense. Defensively, they held Missouri State to just 27 points in the final 25 minutes, and that was the type of showing that many expected when the game began.
On an individual basis, the stat lines were ugly for Wichita State. Cleanthony Early shot just 4-for-14 from the field and 1-for-7 from behind the 3-point line, but he never stopped grinding, getting to the line 14 times in route to 22 points and 14 rebounds. Fred Vanvleet had a similar experience, falling short from the field (3-for-11), but attempting 13 free throws using pure will to get through the game.
For Missouri State, this is a frustrating defeat, but one that displayed their readiness as a potential bubble team this season. They played the Shockers to a virtual draw, and they did so despite attempting 21 fewer free throws (yikes) despite playing in their own building. At 12-4, an at-large bid isn’t out of the question, and they flashed considerable upside here.
It remains to be seen whether Wichita State can “earn” their lofty national ranking, but if Saturday night is any indication, they won’t go down without a fight.