Shockers claim back-to-back-to-back MVC titles

Evan Pflugradt

Back-to-back and back again.

Wichita State claimed the Missouri Valley Conference Title for the third straight season — the fourth in the last five seasons — with a 33-point blowout victory over Indiana State on Sunday.

Gregg Marshall’s team clinched a share of the MVC title after Illinois State fell to Northern Iowa on Saturday. They claimed it outright after defeating Indiana State 84-51 on Sunday. The Shockers hold a three-game lead on the Valley with two games left to play.

“Our goal was to win the next five games after losing to Northern Iowa,” Marshall said. “We’re 60 percent to that mark now. We’ve won two at home convincingly, now we’ve won one on the road convincingly.”

Wichita State defeated Indiana State in Terre Haute by their largest margin of victory; their 33-point margin topped a previous record of 20 points.

“More importantly, we’re playing at a very high level,” Marshall said. “Even though it’s not our ultimate goal, it’s nice to have an outright [MVC] title.”

The Shockers have defeated their last three opponents by an average margin of 31 points. In 16 conference games, five opponents have scored 60-plus points. None have scored 70.

WSU leads the NCAA in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.com. They forced the Sycamores to 14 turnovers and 18 made baskets.

The defense continues to bother opponents, but the offense has stepped up their efficiency to give their team the winning edge.

“We looked back at the UNI game and noticed the ball was sticking too much,” senior guard Ron Baker said. “Today the offense was clicking. We had a lot of confidence from the get go.”

WSU shot 45 percent from the field and knocked in six three-pointers. Baker led with 14 points ­— 12 in the first half. Zach Brown, Markis McDuffie and Shaq Morris each scored 11 points. Fred VanVleet recorded eight assists to one turnover.

After a scoreless first-half effort, Zach Brown scored double-figure points for the third-straight game. His 12 point-average over the last three games makes him the second leading scorer behind Baker over that stretch.  

“Everyone sees the light at the end of the tunnel with March quickly approaching,” Baker said. “These last three games, the guys are seeing how good we can be.”

The Shockers’ depth rocked the Sycamores. WSU scored 34 points off the bench; senior forward Anton Grady scored six straight points in the first half, he knocked in his first three shots of the game.

“We don’t give up too much in terms of talent, skill and size when we come off the bench,” Marshall said.

Wichita State locked up the top-seed in the MVC Tournament for a third straight season. They play their final road game of the regular season at Loyola on Wednesday.

“We have a regular-season championship in our back pocket, but obviously we have larger goals in mind,” Marshall said.

There are six days remaining in the regular season for Marshall and company — a home finale for seniors Baker, VanVleet, Wessel, Grady and Wamukota is set for Saturday.

“We’re focused on winning on Wednesday and setting up for a big day — senior day — on Saturday,” Marshall said.

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