Saturday night, it was almost as if the Wichita State Shockers, bored with beating all comers so far in a 16-0 start, decided to test itself by falling behind by as many as 19 points at Missouri State. If indeed the Shockers were undergoing a self-examination to see what they were made of, they learned the answer in the final 12 minutes of regulation and then overtime, as Wichita State rallied to beat the Bears, 72-69.
Cleanthony Early led all scorers with 22 points. Austin Ruder led the upset effort for Missouri State with 17 points.
At 17-0, 4-0 in the MVC, Wichita State has a game Tuesday against Bradley (6-11, 1-3) at home before the biggest game of the early conference season, when the Shockers host Indiana State (13-3, 4-0 MVC) for first place in the league.
None of that seemed possible when the Bears and Shockers went to their respective benches for the under-12 time out in the second half with the Bears ahead 53-35. That lead got extended by a point on Jarmar Gulley‘s free throw and Missouri State appeared well on its way to a famous upset.
Wichita State woke up, however, showing just how good a team they are this season. The Shockers scored the next 11 points to cut the margin to nine points. Wichita State cut it all the way down to four as the game entered the final minute, before tying it on Fred VanVleet‘s free throw with seven seconds left.
Such a comeback by the Shockers is bad news for more teams than just the Bears, who fell to 12-4, 2-2 MVC with the loss and missed a chance to tie Wichita State for second place in the conference standings behind the Sycamores. More importantly, it’s bad news for the entire conference. You get the feeling that if the Shockers were going to lose a conference game this season, tonight would have certainly been the night.
In all likelihood, despite Indiana State being undefeated, one loss wouldn’t have hurt Wichita State. Sure, it would have ended the hopes of an undefeated full season, but how realistic is that? It hasn’t been done in Division-I in nearly 40 years. It’s something everyone likes to talk about, but it’s not a realistic season goal.
Going undefeated in the MVC, however, is a real threat after the Shockers survived Saturday in what is surely to be their worst game of league play. If Missouri State couldn’t beat Wichita State Saturday night, you have to wonder who will.