ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Missouri State couldn’t recover from a pair of devastating scoring runs by No. 2 Wichita State, as the top-seeded Shockers knocked off the Bears, 67-42, here Saturday (March 8) in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball championship.
The Shockers delivered the knockout punch with a 24-0 surge over the span of 8 minutes, 15 seconds in the second half, which put the contest out of reach for the Bears (20-12), who saw their deficit grow from 37-23 to 61-23. Ron Mvouika broke the drought after grabbing an offensive rebound off his own miss and putting in a shot off the glass.
A smaller part of that run helped Wichita State (33-0) create separation from the outset of the second period. After MSU scored the first basket of the second period to make it a 12-point game, the Shockers opened the half on an 11-2 boost to extend the lead to 44-23 by the first media timeout.
Wichita State converted an unusual 5-point possession in the series when Tekele Cotton nailed a 3-pointer out of the corner. Christian Kirk was called for a foul under the basket after the shot, so the Shockers were awarded a second possession, which they converted into an alley-oop dunk from Fred VanVleet to Cleanthony Early, who posted a game-best 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
After matching its biggest lead at 63-25 with 7:24 to play, the Bears made the margin more respectable with a 17-4 run of their own the rest of the way. The charge provided a glimpse into the team’s future, as all of the points came from underclassmen, including 5 by Mvouika by led MSU with 7 boards.
Dorrian Williams got things started with a 3-pointer and a driving layup in a span of 1:20 before Tyler McCullough scored on a bank shot. From there, Devon Thomas added five points.
For the game, Wichita State connected on half (25-50) of its field goal attempts, including 9-20 from 3-point land. By contrast, Missouri State converted on just 31.9 percent of its tries (15-47), and hit just 23.8 percent (5-21) of its bonus ball attempts.
Thurman led the Bears with nine points, while Dorrian Williams added 7. The Bears allowed WSU just 7 second-chance points and joined Indiana State as the only Valley squads to hold the Shockers under 70 points twice this season.
Wichita State’s first scoring run came as a result of a 17-0 assault over 6:36 of the first half. After closing to within 13-12 on Williams’ driving layup with 8:49 to play in the grind-it-out period, the Bears saw the one-point deficit increase to 18, as the Wichita defense held MSU without a point for that time.
Wichita State drilled five 3-pointers during the span, and VanVleet drove in for a 2-point layup. Thurman broke the drought with a personal 5-0 run. Thurman hit a driving one-handed shot before nailing a three from the elbow to make it a 30-17 game.
The Missouri State defense had an up-and-down first half. The Bears forced the Shockers into two shot clock violations, but Wichita State connected on 8-of-10 3-point tries to build an early advantage. Ultimately, long-range shooting was the difference in the half, as the Bears hit on only 3-11 of its attempts.
However, The Bears closed the first half on a 7-3 run to close the gap to 33-19 at the break. Austin Ruder converted a jumper off the glass at the horn to keep MSU in the game at that point.
Missouri State will now await its postseason fate with the series of Selection Sunday announcements coming on March 16. The Bears are expected to play in either the NIT, CBI or CIT postseason events, depending on a variety of factors in the coming week.
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