SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Landry Shamet knew the spotlight was on Saturday, and the freshman wanted to make every use of that opportunity to aid Wichita State’s postseason chances.
Shamet did his part, and then some, to try and help the 25th-ranked Shockers (27-4, 17-1 Missouri Valley Conference) reach their sixth straight NCAA Tournament — scoring a career-best 23 points as Wichita State earned a 86-67 victory over Missouri State.
The win secures at least a share of the MVC title for a fourth straight season and fifth in the last six years for the Shockers, who have won 12 straight games after some difficult early season losses to Power 5 conference competition.
More than anything, Saturday’s victory gave Wichita State a chance to show a national television audience that the names might have changed from its 2013 Final Four run , but these are the same old Shockers known for causing bracket-havoc come March.
“We wanted to go out and leave no doubt (about the NCAA Tournament),” Shamet said. “... We were just trying to put the best product out on the floor, obviously, for national television today. A lot of people got to see that, and hopefully they liked what they saw.”
Shamet’s scoring outburst came on 9-of-12 shooting, 5 of 8 from 3-point range, while topping his previous best of 20 points — set against South Dakota State in December. The freshman had plenty of help inside from junior forward Shaq Morris, who had 20 points, while junior guard Conner Frankamp added 14 points for the Shockers.
Wichita State entered Saturday 20th in the country with a scoring average of 82.4 points per game, and the Shockers didn’t let up while winning their 14th straight over the Bears (16-15, 7-11) and putting the finishing touches on the MVC’s first four-peat since Southern Illinois won four straight titles from 2002-05.
“I think this may be my best offensive team in 19 years,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “And the reason for that is we have so many different weapons at any given time on the floor.”
The Shockers led throughout and by as many as 10 points in the first half before Missouri State cut the lead to 50-46 early in the second half. However, Wichita State followed by hitting five of its 11 3-pointers for the game during a 20-8 run that pushed the lead to 70-54 and put the game out of reach.
Shamet hit four of his 3-pointers in the second half for the Shockers, who added to the school record for 3-pointers in a season (274) they set in a win earlier in the week against Evansville.
Dequon Miller led Missouri State with 19 points, while Alize Johnson had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“They do what they do, and they wore us down,” Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. “... They have some guys who made some big, big shots, big shot makers.”
Wichita State: The Shockers entered Saturday rated 44th in the NCAA’s RPI ratings, but questions remain about whether their late-season surge is enough for the school to have already secured an NCAA Tournament berth, if it doesn’t win the MVC Tournament next week. Marshall, for one, isn’t stressing Wichita State’s postseason hopes. “I think if you watch us, it’s pretty evident that we’re a very good team and we’ve got a lot of weapons,” he said. “And we just keep getting better.”
Missouri State: Johnson’s double-double was the 16th of the season for the 6-foot-9 junior. Despite outrebounding Wichita State 33-31, though, the Bears were able to improve on an 80-62 loss to the Shockers in Kansas on Feb. 9, allowing Wichita State to shoot 54.1 percent (33 of 61) in the win.
The Shockers entered The Associated Press poll for the first time in a year this week, and they aren’t going anywhere yet after wins over Evansville on Tuesday and Saturday’s win over Missouri State.
Both teams next play at the MVC Tournament in St. Louis from March 2-5.