Halftime: Shockers trail Illinois State, hot shooting numbers fall in final minutes

Wichita State, playing for the top spot in the Missouri Valley, trails at halftime.


Brian Hayes

Wichita State forward, Zach Brown, leaps for a pass to Austin Reeves in the corner against Loyola. Wichita State beat out Loyola 87 – 75 in Koch Arena. (Jan. 11, 2017)

In 20 years, two Missouri Valley teams, each with a 5-0 conference record, have met three times. The third time came Saturday between Wichita State and Illinois State for the early top spot in the MVC.

Illinois State’s Paris Lee, who is in the running for conference player of the year, fired the game’s first shot, a three-pointer, 12 seconds into the game and hit, giving the Redbirds an early lead.

Despite a back-and-forth battle, Illinois State has shot to a 9-point halftime lead over the Shockers.

Gregg Marshall sent junior Daishon Smith at Lee first. Lee wasn’t bothered much, splitting the defense early and opening teammates for an open three-pointer, and a running layup against three WSU defenders in transition.

With an early six-point lead, the Shockers searched for ways to slow the show.

The help came when Lee settled on the bench for a brief break, and the Shockers took to inside the paint with Darral Willis, Jr., Zach Brown and Shaq Morris who ruined the Redbirds’ early mojo. 

Conner Frankamp with deep range, gave WSU their first lead shortly after the 8-minute mark in the first half; ISU tied then went up. 

Morris continued to reel in defenders, Frankamp did the work outside the perimeter.

Then Illinois State went to a zone defense, which pestered WSU to falter a 16-point halftime lead the last time Wichita State traveled to Normal, Illinois.

A three guard rotation of Frankamp, Shamet and Austin Reaves held off shooting, but the Shockers stayed in-tune going inside-out in the paint. 

Rauno Nurger, who has showcased a new offensive skill set in conference play, hit one shot as the Redbirds held off the Shockers offense, who went nearly seven minutes without a made basket.

Willis ended the drought with a two-point jumper with 40 seconds left in the half. Illinois State jumped ahead nine points in the final 4:55 of the half. He leads all scorers with 10 points on eight attempts.

Keyshawn Evans leads the Redbirds with 8 points.

Wichita State made nine of their first 18 attempts, and has since then hit one of their last 11.

Illinois State shot 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from three at halftime.

Frankamp has hit Wichita State’s only two three-pointers in the game.

The Shockers have committed eight turnovers to Illinois State’s nine.

The winner will be the only team left undefeated in the MVC at 6-0 and the loser will fall to 5-1. The second half of the game will be played on ESPN2.