Wichita State celebrates Valley title in victory
WICHITA, Kan. – Ben Smith scored 18 points to lead a balanced offense and help No. 19 Wichita State beat Drake 81-58 on Saturday.
Garrett Stutz added 15 and Toure Murry chipped in 14 for Wichita State (26-4, 16-2 Missouri Valley), which had already clinched the Missouri Valley championship entering Saturday, but celebrated its first title since 2006.
The Shockers also avenged their only loss, a 93-86 triple-overtime thriller at Drake on Jan. 28, in their last 17 games. Ben Simons scored 21 points, hitting seven 3-pointers, to lead the Bulldogs (16-14, 9-9).
Drake missed its first eight shots of the game, as Wichita State took a 12-1 lead. But that early cushion vanished once Simons hit four 3-pointers to close Drake within 15-13.
The teams continued to trade runs, as Wichita State countered with its own 7-0 streak before the Bulldogs clawed back to get to within 29-25 with 2:50 left.
Wichita State would go on the game's decisive run to end the first half, scoring the last seven points to take a 36-25 lead into halftime.
When Drake cut the deficit to 39-33, the Shockers' seniors responded by scoring 12 of the 14 points in a 14-6 run to restore a cushion.
Wichita State delivered the finishing blow with a 13-0 run midway through the second half. Smith started the run with a lay-up and 3-pointer, and it was punctuated by a slam dunk from Ehimen Orukpe with 5:32 left to give WSU a 71-45 lead.
Drake never threatened after that, struggling through a 35.6 percent shooting performance. The Shockers also out-rebounded Drake 44-32.
Even with its number two scorer, Joe Ragland, held scoreless, Wichita State found enough balance to best Drake. Outside of Simons, the rest of the Bulldogs were 14 of 42 shooting.
Wichita State led by as many as 27 points in the second half to set the tone for the celebration party after the game. The coaches and players cut down the nets to celebrate the conference championship.
Wichita State will be the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley tournament next week.