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Wichita State, Illinois State advance to MVC final

The co-champions streak into the final.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-Wichita State vs Missouri State
Shaquille Morris led the Shockers with 21 points.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri Valley Conference match up everyone wanted to see will take place Sunday in St. Louis. Regular season co-champions, Wichita State and Illinois State used superior talent and size to defeat Missouri State and Southern Illinois, respectively, and will face off for the Arch Madness title.

The two teams split their regular season games and have now ripped off 36 wins against the other Valley teams this season. During Saturday’s games, the 12,124 fans in attendance and those watching on CBS Sports Network, saw how good the champions can be.

Illinois State’s rout of Southern Illinois

The Redbirds (27-5) broke the Valley’s tournament record for blocked shots Friday, and Saturday they nearly eclipsed the mark for three pointers. In each case, they dispatched their opponent with relative ease.

ISU’s 63-50 score against Southern Illinois is misleading, to say the least. A 43-20 lead through the opening session made the second half somewhat meaningless as Dan Muller was managing minutes rather than calling out offensive plays.

MVC Player of the Year Paris Lee led the first half long distance assault that saw the Redbirds make nine of 15 shots from deep. Lee connected three times, while Tony Wills and MiKyle McIntosh each made two. The tournament record of 15 triples looked to be in jeopardy, but Muller’s liberal use of bench players limited that possibility. The Redbirds ended up hitting 13 treys.

Southern Illinois finished with its second straight winning (17-16) season. ISU has won eight straight games, and its 27 wins are a program record.

Frankamp & Morris lead the way for Wichita State

Wichita State had a tougher time of it, but still won its 14th consecutive game, which has included nine by double digits. Missouri State started the game with a 9-0 run and led 12-2 before a barrage of Shocker three-pointers changed the game.

The Shockers (29-4) led 37-34 and finished with a solid 78-63 victory. Missouri State (17-16) finished the season above .500 for the first time since 2014, and the second time in Paul Lusk’s six-year run as the head coach.

Center Shaquille Morris led the inside game with 21 points, and Conner Frankamp connected on six three-pointers on his way to 18 points. The Wichita native says he and his teammates are excited to play ISU in the “tie-breaker” game on Sunday.

“We're excited we're playing them, but we can only control what we can control,” said Frankamp. “It will be a big game tomorrow, but we feel like we'll be ready for it.”

Wichita State last won the Valley’s tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2014. The Redbirds won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998, and haven’t won since.

Game time Sunday is set for 1:05 PM CT and can be watched on CBS TV.