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2015 MVC Tournament: Redbirds Look Like a Dark Horse, Beat No. 8 Wichita State

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The Illinois State Redbirds hold on to upset the No. 8 Shockers at Scottrade Arena, putting them in the MVC Tournament Championship Game.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois State had difficulty holding onto the ball.

They were up 62-58 against the nationally ranked Wichita State Shockers and they just lost the ball. Last year's MVC Player of the Year Fred VanVleet broke free and seemed like he was going to make an easy bucket like he tends to do - but then MiKyle McIntosh ran the length of the floor and used his 6-7 frame to block the shot.

McIntosh was then fouled and swished his free throws to extend the lead. The freshman forward may not have made a single field goal off the bench all day, but at that moment he was instrumental to his team's victory.

Of course, that didn't mean that VanVleet would be intimidated. He continued to push the Redbirds as he first drew the foul and made two free throws. He then stole the ball on a poor inbound attempt by ISU, wove through the seemingly perplexed defenders, and laid it up to make it a one point game.

Perhaps most appropriately, it was senior Daishon Knight who brought it back out to 65-62 from the line after having led his team with 23 points (now 25) on a cool 10 of 15 shooting effort that included three from beyond the arc out of just four ttempts. Those last two points were the only free throws on his stat line for the day.

When the game was over it didn't earn the Redbirds an automatic trip to the NCAA Tournament, and this win alone certainly will not give them an at-large bid either. However, it did give them a win over the No. 8 team in the nation, the favorite team in the MVC Tournament, and kept the dream alive to continue this already successful season into the Big Dance. That alone is worth it.

As for the Shockers, they're still the MVC's regular season champion and there's no doubt that they're still the class of the Valley. They should still expect a relatively high seed in the NCAA Tourney to boot. They certainly cannot say they didn't play at a high level today. Fred VanVleet sunk 19 points shooting 50 percent from the field, while Ron Baker made 13 and Tekele Cotton had 12 alongside his usual spectacular defense.

The one thing Shocker Head Coach Gregg Marshall can point to is the dismal three point shooting. Ron Baker was unusually off, only getting one of his seven to fall after a 40.3 percent regular season from beyond the arc. That being said, he was 5 of 8 from the field otherwise, so it's not as if he was incapable of contributing. As a whole, the Shockers only made four of their 18 3-point attempts, which is an easy stat to blame for their loss.

The Redbirds' Reggie Lynch, a 6-10 sophomore Center, was a defensive force and dominated inside the paint like few do against the Shockers. He not only scored the second most of all ISU players at 11, he also had seven rebounds and five blocks. After fowling out as the game wound down he was greeted by a standing ovation from the Illinois State fans and deservedly earned the chants of "REG-GIE! REG-GIE!"

The Redbirds will now play the winner of the Northern Iowa - Loyola Semifinal in the MVC Tournament Championship, which will be Sunday, March 8 at 1:05 p.m. Central on CBS Sports.