ST. LOUIS (AP) — Wichita State forward Shaquille Morris wants to cut down the nets at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
He did everything in his power Saturday to get closer to that goal, scoring 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half to power the 21st-ranked Shockers to a 78-63 semifinal victory over Missouri State.
“We always have a chip on our shoulder,” said Morris, a redshirt junior. “For being the best team in the Valley, winning the Valley three years in a row, back-to-back-to-back, and then sharing it with Illinois State, we have a lot of doubters of us winning it. Now we just want to let the doubters down and just win it all.”
Conner Frankamp equaled his career high with 18 points, including a career-best six 3-pointers, and Markis McDuffie added 15 points as the second-seeded Shockers (29-4) advanced to the MVC championship game for the fourth time in eight seasons. They’ll play top-seeded Illinois State on Sunday, the first title game appearance for Wichita State since winning the tournament in 2014.
Sixth-seeded Missouri State (17-16), which upset No. 3 seed Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals, got 20 points from Jarred Dixon and 16 from Alize Johnson, who also had seven rebounds and a career-high seven assists.
“Give Wichita State a lot of credit,” Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. “I thought we came out and were excellent. Obviously if you punch them they are going to punch back and they punched us back. … Realistically in the second half you’ve got to make shots to stay with them. We missed a lot of good looks. And they wear you down.”
Wichita State beat Missouri State by 19 points a week earlier and has won 15 straight meetings with the Bears. Missouri State last beat Wichita State in 2011.
The Shockers followed up a slow start in the quarterfinals Friday with another one Saturday, missing nine of their first 10 field-goal attempts as Missouri State scored the first nine points of the game and led 12-2.
“The first four minutes, we weren’t very good, but then we loosened it up,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said.
The Shockers led by as many as 10 in the first half, but Missouri State used a 7-0 run over the final 2:21 to trim Wichita State’s lead to 37-34.
The Shockers pulled away in the second half behind Morris, who had 16 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes. Wichita State, which eventually opened an 18-point bulge, made all 14 of its free throws after halftime.
The Shockers improved to 4-4 in MVC Tournament semifinal games under Marshall. Wichita State is 1-2 in MVC championship games during that span.
HE SAID IT
Marshall on Frankamp: “He’s as good a shooter as I’ve ever been around. I’ve been doing this now 32 years. When the ball comes out of his hand, it looks like it’s going in from my vantage point.”
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Wichita State made 20 of its 21 free throws (95.2 percent).
Wichita State will meet fellow Missouri Valley Conference co-champion Illinois State (27-5) in the championship game. The teams split two regular-season matchups, and both went 17-1 in conference play. Illinois State got the No. 1 seed based on RPI as the tiebreaker.
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