It's been apparent for a while that Wichita is likely to win the regular season title in the MVC, and that there's also a very good chance that Indiana State will take second. The rest of the conference, and the all important conference tournament seeding, was a complete jumble. I'm not sure how much today cleared anything up, but let me ask you a question.
Team A committed almost as many fouls (23) and turnovers (21) as they grabbed rebounds (28), didn't get a second player above six points until the last five minutes, and attempted nine fewer free throws than their opponent made.
Team B saw every starter score in double digits, but shot only 21% from long range and had more turnovers (12) than assists (11).
Any guesses who won? Here's a hint: it wasn't the guy watching the game to write about it. That's a bit harsh, but a matchup that saw Illinois State (Team B) take down Missouri State to claim sole possession of third place in the conference ended with a 66-63 final and was close for all the wrong reasons.
The Bears struggled all night for the same reasons, repeatedly. The spent a lot of time ball-watching, namely watching their teammate Jarmar Gulley handle the ball. This was great while Gulley was scoring 24 points, and less great when Gulley committed his third foul with over 14 minutes left to play.
It didn't keep Gulley off the court much, but it did dial down his aggressiveness on the offensive end, which was a huge issue that only got worse as his teammates struggled to produce. However, Illinois State couldn't consistently keep focused on offense - they only turned the ball over 12 times, but it always seemed to happen right when they were about to get hot.
Southern Illinois 75, Bradley 64
I think Anthony Beane has got this basketball thing all figured out. Entering tonight, he was averaging only 13.6 points per game on the season, but had racked up an impressive 23 per game over his last six outings. Tonight would continue that trend, as he didn't miss his first field goal until the 8:53 mark of the first half in helping the Salukis push the lead to as many as nine.
That lead would disappear by halftime, but they would regain and hold a double digit lead through the end of the game, led by Beane's 27 points, eight rebounds, and four steals. Bradley got 17 points, six assists and three steals from Walter Lemon Jr. in a losing effort, but he also turned the ball over seven times.
Drake 70, Northern Iowa 67
As of the 10 minute mark of the second half, Seth Tuttle had scored 16 points, which represented 80 percent of the scoring for Northern Iowa's starting lineup. That tells you most of what you need to know about this game. The other telling sign is that Jacob Enevold Jensen, the 6'11" freshman from Denmark, continues to look more and more like he will slide ride into the vacancy that Seth VanDeest will create next season.
The Bulldogs gave up the opening basket of the game, but then made their first three three-point shots as part of a 13-0 run to take a decisive lead that they would never quite relinquish. Wes Washpun continues to show that he has a lot to learn about playing under control, racking up four turnovers and two points, and Northern Iowa continues their inconsistent offensive production on the heels of their win at Missouri State.
VanDeest and Enevold made a nice one-two punch down low against an outsized Panther squad, combining for 16 points and 11 rebounds along with a single turnover. The Bulldogs combined to play off that size well and finish the game 8-for-18 from long range.
They pushed the lead to 18 just past the under eight TV timeout at 62-44, but then - as any team at the bottom of the conference might - they unraveled. They allowed UNI to rattle off a 20-3 run largely on the back of Richard Carter's fatigue and cramping, but it fell just short for the Panthers, who are now... still stuck in the middle.
Tuttle finished with 20 points to lead the Panthers, while the Bulldogs were led by Carter's 19.