"Arch Madness" continues at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. After the last second victory by Loyola of Chicago on Thursday, Friday was not as surprising. The Wichita State Shockers took care of business are just two wins away from going into the NCAA Tournament undefeated. Here is a recap of all the games during day two of the MVC Tournament.
#1 Wichita State Shockers 80, #9 Evansville Purple Aces 58
It was another day at the office for the Shockers. After a slow start, they went on a 17-5 run about halfway through the first half to pull away from the Purple Aces. Shockers forward Cleanthony Early was fouled on a three-point attempt that he converted and gave Wichita State a 22-20 lead. From there, the Shockers dominated the rest of the game.
One bright spot for Evansville was D.J. Balentine. Balentine scored 31 points in the losing effort. This was his second straight game with 30 or more points. However, he took 21 shot attempts during the game, including 14 from beyond the arc. The Purple Aces still have some work to do, but they have a solid core returning next year in Balentine and center Egidijus Mockevicius. Balentine will need to become more efficient on the offensive end, but Aces head coach Marty Simmons will have an excellent team returning next season.
However, this game was all about the Shockers. They were so balanced and efficient on both ends of the floor. Fred VanVleet, the shockers point guard, had an excellent all-around game with 9 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. He carefully distributed the ball to his teammates and their unselfishness was a huge product of his command on the floor. Yet, he appeared to come up lame at one point during the second half, but he seemed to shake it off. He was a major catalyst in the Shockers style of play.
"I think I'm a scorer, but I love to see my teammates do good," said Early. "We all feel the same way. We want to watch each other prosper and do good for the team. So we go out there and make it happen."
Early and guard Ron Baker lead the way with 17 points each for Wichita State as they advance to semifinalson Saturday at 2:30 p.m. eastern time against the Missouri State Bears.
#4 Missouri State Bears 53, #5 Illinois State Redbirds 48
This was a tight game between both teams. In their two previous match ups, one went into overtime and the other was decided in the final seconds by free throws. Friday’s match up was once again decided by free throws.
After Missouri State jumped out a 15-5 lead, Illinois State slowly picked away at the Bears lead to keep the game within a couple of buckets for the rest of the game. With 5:40 left in the second half, Redbirds guard Paris Lee made a layup to give his team their first lead of the game.
Freshman Austin Ruder stepped up for the Bears after Illinois State took the lead late in the second half. He hit some clutch free throws and a key three-pointers with 2:05 left in the game to reclaim a 48-46 lead for Missouri State. He was an unexpected candidate to step up for the Bears. However, the Redbirds were not out of this game.
Guard Zack Lofton came off the bench for Illinois State to score a career-high 25 points. He singlehandedly kept his team in the game. He hit a jumper with 11 seconds left to cut the Bears lead to 2.
The Bears then hit 3 of their final 4 free throws to seal the victory and advance to the semifinals against the Wichita State Shockers at 2:30 p.m. eastern time on Saturday.
The Shockers defeated the Bears by 23 points last week to complete their undefeated regular season.
"They're just really good. They don't beat themselves either," said MSU head coach Paul Lusk about competing against Wichita State on Saturday. "If you're going to have a chance, you've got to you've got to match their toughness, and then you also got to match their wits because they're a smart basketball team. It will be a monumental challenge, but it's one that we're looking forward to."
#2 Indiana State Sycamores 75, #10 Loyola of Chicago Ramblers 62
After dramatically advancing to the quarterfinals, the Ramblers crashed and burned against the Indiana State Sycamores. In one of the oddest stats of the night, Loyola were 92.9 percent from the free throw line, but 18.2 percent from the field in the first half. Amazingly, they were only down four points at the end of the first half.
Sycamores guard Jake Odum led his team with 18 points. He was key in sparking a 6-0 run for the Sycamores to open the second half to extend their lead to double-digits. That was all they needed to down the Ramblers.
Loyola of Chicago ended the game only making 34.0 percent of their shots. Only one player scored in double-digits. It seemed like they spent too much of their energy on the game against the Bradley Braves on Thursday. Their first half struggles were too much for them to overcome.
Indiana State snapped a three game losing streak advances to the semifinals on Saturday against the Southern Illinois Salukis.
"Even though we lost three coming in here, this group throughout has been a hard working group," said ISU head coach Greg Lansing.
#3 Northern Iowa Panthers 58, #6 Southern Illinois Salukis 63
In the biggest shock of the night, Southern Illinois held on to the victory after a late surge by Northern Iowa. The Panthers were down by 19 points at one point during the game, but tied the game late in the second half. SIU held on to win the game and have won 5 of their last 6 games. The only loss in that streak came against Northern Iowa who defeated the Salukis 73-54 on Feb. 26.
In the last 5:27 of the first half, the Salukis went on a 15-0 run to close the half with an 18 point lead. SIU guard Desmar Jackson scored 10 of his 23 points during that run. He along with guard Anthony Beane gave his team a huge lead, but the Panthers responded.
Northern Iowa started the second half on an 8-0 run to cut Southern Illinois lead to 12 points, but the Salukis responded with their own 7-0 run to extend the lead back to 19.
After extending its lead, SIU had a seven minute stretch where they only scored 9 points. This gave Northern Iowa an opportunity to get back into the game. The Panthers got to the foul line and made some key three pointers to tie the game with 3:32 left in the second half. Southern Illinois would reclaim the lead, but nearly threw the game away.
With 48 seconds left, an SIU player lobbed a pass the length of the court and the ball nearly went out of bounds. However, Jackson made an athletic play, jumping into a row of photographers, to salvage the ball and bounced it to Beane who made a layup to extend the Saluki lead to 4 points. That play save the game for Southern Illinois.
The Salukis will advance to take on the Indiana State Sycamores on Saturday at 5:05 p.m. eastern time in the semifinals.