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Wichita State gets by Northern Iowa with another balanced effort

The broken record plays on: the Shockers have depth.

NCAA Basketball: Wichita State at Colorado State
Rauno Nurger’s big game came at the right time.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Wichita State beat Northern Iowa 80-66 Sunday in a game that was closer than the final score suggests.

The Shockers (14-3, 4-0) were coming off back-to-back home massacres against Bradley and Drake, respectively. But as was the case in its MVC opener at Indiana State, WSU needed to work for the road win.

UNI went on an 11-2 run punctuated by a deep three by Spencer Haldeman to pull within two points with 12:25 remaining.

Wichita State responded with its characteristically stout defense, highlighted by blocks by Rashard Kelly and Darral Willis Jr. The Panthers made just five field goals over that final 12:25.

For a deep WSU team, it was another case of another day, another playing stepping up.

Landry Shamet led the Shockers with 17 points, which included a personal 8-0 run in the first half. Conner Frankamp finished with 11 points, including an encouraging 3-of-4 from distance for the struggling marksman.

Rauno Nurger’s big night (13 points, 4 rebounds) was pivotal with Willis and Shaq Morris in foul trouble. The Estonian junior burned the Panthers in the paint with his hook shot, and also hit the 12th three-pointer of his career.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak to UNI, which included the dramatic 57-52 overtime defeat in last year’s Arch Madness semifinal.

For UNI (5-10, 0-4), a difficult season drags on. The Panthers sixth consecutive loss is the first such losing streak in 10 years. Jeremy Morgan recovered from a first half ankle injury to have another solid game (15 points, 4 rebounds) and Jordan Ashton (12 points) had his moments against the Shockers’ fierce defense.

Seeing Ben Jacobsen’s team at the bottom of the MVC standings does not seem right. If nothing else, there were signs that his team will not roll over. In addition to the 11-2 second half run, a Morgan-fueled run at the end of the first half tightened up a game that was beginning to drift away.

The schedule also lightens up considerably for UNI, with upcoming games with Bradley and Drake.

The opposite holds true for the Shockers. They return home to play a Loyola team that has won consecutive games before the highly-anticipated showdown next Saturday against Illinois State in Bloomington-Normal.