And that, folks, is why the Shockers are ranked #6 in the nation.
During the first half the Missouri State Bears (12-4, 2-2) captured the lead with open three point shots, lead by freshman guard Austin Ruder who was 5 for 8 from beyond the arc and finished with 17 points. The Shockers (17-0, 4-0) were playing uncharacteristically sloppy defense, while the Bears had the hot hand. However, a shift in strategy resulted in WSU winning 72-69 in overtime against the Bears.
Coach Marshall again proved why he is the best coach in the Missouri Valley, as he made the right adjustments to change his team's mindset as the Shockers went into the locker room down 42-24. Instead of leaving a cushion on the outside to ensure the Bears couldn't drive to the basket, WSU clenched down on the Bears' sharpshooters every time they had an opportunity to take a shot.
The Bears would expand their lead to as much as 19 with almost 12 minutes left in the game. However, the new defensive intensity lead to Ruder wisely deciding to not take shots he knew he wouldn't make, whereas team leaders Marcus Marshall and Jamar Gulley continued to force long shots that were closely defended. In either case, while the Bears made 65% of their shots before the half, they hit only 2 of their 13 three point attempts after that.
The Shockers also prevented the Bears from generating a consistent presence in the paint as they accumulated 6 blocks, half of which belonged to senior center Chadrack Lufile.
Cleanthony Early continued his heroics for the Shockers, as he scored 13 of his game leading 22 points in the second half. Early's 14 rebounds also lead the Shockers, who grabbed the ball off the glass 10 more times than the Bears.
However, it was Fred VanVleet who iced the game for the Shockers. In the last two minutes the Bears were still up 64-59 until VanVleet scored the last five points of the half with a jump shot and three free throws. If VanVleet regretted missing two free throws that would have taken the lead and ended the game, he compensated by scoring 7 of his team's 8 points in overtime, finishing with 16 points on the night.
While much of Missouri State's loss may be attributed to WSU's tenacious defense, much of it was by their own doing. During the second half, and especially in overtime, the Bears played conservative and timid. Offensive sequences often consisted of allowing the clock to run down to a handful of seconds before attempting to make a play, which resulted in poor shot selection.
The woulda-coulda-shoulda moments belong to Tyler McCollough and Dorrian Williams. Both had the opportunity to take the lead in overtime, but McCollough missed his "and one" free throw after his game tying jump shot, whereas Williams failed to make either of his free throws.
NOTES: Wichita native Gavin Thurman made 9 points and 2 blocks off the bench for the Bears. There were 10,776 people in attendance at JQH Arena, the third highest attendance at Missouri State history.