In a season there are certain games that mean more. Sure there are the games that a team will circle on the calendar before the season starts, but some of the most crucial games emerge as the season progresses and as the pretenders are being sifted from the contenders.
Some of these critical games call for teams to be successful despite adversity. It is these games, however, that determine if a season is made or broken. Wins in these types of games are often evidence of a good team.
Saturday, Missouri State has to compete in its biggest game of the season.
The Bears will square off against undefeated conference foe Wichita State with much on the line. MSU (19-10, 9-8) is playing for the third seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and the right to say it sullied the Shockers spectacular spotless season.
Wichita State is the undoubted favorite in matchup but the Bears aren’t a team without fight and ferocity. Seniors Jarmar Gulley and Keith Pickens anchor a versatile frontcourt that can stretch defenses because of its mid-range shooting prowess.
Although the gifted Missouri State sophomore Marcus Marshall went down with an injury shortly after the first contest between these two teams, Ron Mvouika and Dorrian Williams have stepped up in his stead. Mvouika is an athletic wing player with guard skills and Williams leads the team in assists.
Marshall’s injury has also allowed freshman sniper Austin Ruder to take a more dominant role in the offense. Ruder averages 42.5 percent from beyond the arc and is five 3-pointers away from notching 70 on the year—nearly three times as many as the next highest shooter.
Behind its experienced frontcourt, Missouri State can bang with the Shockers on the block. The key to Saturday’s game will be in the guard play. If Ruder and Mvouika can outplay Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker then the Bears may outlast WSU.