Redbirds break the streak, Shockers record first conference loss

Evan Pflugradt

The streak is over.

Holding a 16-point second half lead, Kenpom.com gave the Shockers a 98.5 percent chance of defeating conference-rival Illinois State. ISU guard Paris Lee liked those odds.

Lee led with a career-high 19 points as the Redbirds upset No. 21 Wichita State for their first conference loss of the season Saturday, 58-53, in Normal, Illinois.

“This game really told the team we can compete with anybody,” Lee said. “It just shows us how good of a team we can be.”

The Shockers entered Saturday’s game holding opponents to an average of 58 points and boasting an average win margin of 21 points.

Fred VanVleet shot a three-pointer on the first possession of the game, giving the Shockers a three-point advantage only 20 seconds into the start. The next play another three, this time Zach Brown, a six-point lead.

Trying to answer back the Redbirds couldn’t connect, they missed five consecutive attempts as the Shockers took an eight-point advantage.

Illinois State guard Deontae Hawkins ended a four-minute scoring drought with a contested three. It was only a brief glimmer of hope for ISU for the remainder of the first half.

The tenacious defense of Wichita State loomed on Dan Muller’s group.

Shaq Morris finished an alley-oop from VanVleet, and with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first half, the Shockers opened to a 14-point lead on the Redbirds. ISU, with only two made field goals, shot a combined nine percent field goal percentage on more than 20 shot attempts.

The shooting woes created heartache for Muller and his company. An effort to shear off embarrassment, Lee took over.

Lee connected for the team’s first field goal in more than seven minutes, only the team’s third basket of the game. The next play he connected again, this time a driving layup in transition.

Wichita State entered the half on back-to-back baskets from Morris. He had nine first-half points to edge the Shockers ahead 33-21.

A step-back jumper by Ron Baker gave the Shockers a 16-point lead, their highest margin of the game.

The Shockers worked off back-to-back baskets to turn things the opposite direction. WSU would record only five more field goals the rest of the game.

Morris would go to the bench, resting with three fouls.

The Redbirds would take advantage of the size advantage in the paint; they tallied an 11-2 run on Wichita State with Morris on the bench.

Morris checked back in and on an out-of-bounds play with one second left, he was called for his fourth personal foul of the game. ISU capitalized; two free throws by Hawkins gave ISU a three-point advantage.

A three-point play off an and-one layup by Hawkins extended the Redbirds’ lead to four points.

Conner Frankamp swished a long three, pulling the margin down to a point.

Lee closed things out with four made free throws. He scored 13 of his career-high 19 points in the second half.

The Redbirds went 22 for 26 at the free-throw line, compared to nine for 15 for WSU. The Redbirds also bettered the Shockers in rebounding, a 46-35 advantage.

“They got to the foul line way too many times,” Gregg Marshall said.

VanVleet shot 20 percent from the field. The team shot a combined 22 percent from three-point range and 35 percent from the field. Morris and Baker each recorded 10 points.

The Shockers compete against Drake next at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Des Moines.