The Shockers may be the top seed in this year's event, but they have not won the conference title since 1987, the longest drought of any team in the MVC that has at least one crown to its credit. Wichita State had little trouble advancing through the quarterfinals on Friday as it blasted Indiana State by a score of 72-48. Overall, the victory was the ninth in a row for the program, and the 17th in the last 18 outings.
As for the fourth-seeded Redbirds, they put together one of their strongest defensive efforts of the season yesterday as they defeated fifth-seeded Northern Iowa, 54-42. The victory was the second in a row and the third in the last four games overall for an ISU program that has four tournament titles in the MVC, but none since 1998.
WSU won both meetings between the teams during the regular season, the latest coming less than two weeks ago in a 68-55 final on the road, which means the all-time series now favors the Redbirds by a count of just 36-33.
The winner of this meeting will be back in action tomorrow afternoon to contend against the survivor of the Evansville/Creighton matchup for the tourney title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Illinois State defense simply overwhelmed the Panthers yesterday, limiting UNI to a mere 25.5 percent shooting from the floor and 7-of-23 behind the three-point line. Granted, the Redbirds were a bit shaky at the offensive end themselves with only 34.5 percent accuracy from the field and a disappointing 3-of-20 showing on the perimeter, but still the team played well enough to pick up the win. More specifically, Jackie Carmichael was the one who played well enough to pull off the win as he logged a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds, adding three blocked shots to his stat line as well. Thanks to Carmichael, ISU easily won the battle of the boards, 48-33. Against the rest of the MVC this season Carmichael has averaged close to a double-double with 13.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing, so it is key for him to get off to a fast start if the Redbirds hope to make a game of it today.
Wichita State opened the meeting with the Sycamores on a 7-0 run and never looked back, leading 20-3 at one point before settling on the 24-point decision. Defensively the Shockers held Indiana State to a mere 26.9 percent shooting from the floor and 5-of-22 behind the three-point line, while they themselves connected on 50 percent from the field and 7-of-14 on the perimeter. Joe Ragland and Toure' Murry both dropped in 14 points and combined for nine assists, followed by Demetric Williams with 10 points, four boards and four dishes. Garrett Stutz cleared 12 rebounds to lead the team in that department and once it became clear that the outcome had been decided the starters were given a rest in order to prepare for today. Stutz still leads the team in scoring overall with 13.8 ppg, but not far behind are Ragland (13.2 ppg) and Murry (12.1 ppg), but it is the defense that has been so strong for the program this season, limiting foes to only 62.4 ppg.