As I made my way into downtown St. Louis, I was met with the spectrum of team colors slowly making their way into a building usually reserved for just blue. Golds and reds, purples and blues all crossed Clark Avenue in front of me and walked into the Scottrade. It was Valley Friday in St. Louis, and when the sun peeked from behind the clouds as the worst of the bad weather passed us by, we knew today was going to be all about basketball.
Upon taking my seat in the now moderately-populated upper deck, I saw the primary color for the early sessions would be gold, Shocker gold to be exact. The entire southwest corner of the building became Koch Arena East as the Wichita State faithful, easily 5,000 strong, had made the seven-hour trip to St. Louis to cheer on the one-seed in this tournament. Meanwhile, their opponent, Indiana State, had a contingent not even half the size, which is odd considering the drive from Terre Haute is only half as long as the one from Wichita. From the outset it would appear to be obvious, Wichita would be the dominant fan base in this tournament.
As for the basketball team, they also asserted themselves to be the dominant team in this tournament as well. The Shockers pounced on the unsuspecting Sycamores, who were just 16 hours removed from their win over Southern Illinois the night before. Toure' Murray started the Shockers with a nice baseline fadeaway, then the defensive pressure began. The Trees seemed to be more fatigued mentally than physically, as the Wichita State defense forced four ISU turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game, resulting in a 20-3 Shocker run.
The Wichita D was especially keyed in on Indiana State's Jake Odum, the catalyst for the Sycamore offense. Odum is a keen dribbler and passer, and much of the Sycamores' scoring is reliant on Odum driving toward the basket, either laying it up if the defense doesn't collapse in toward him, or kicking it out to an open Jordan Printy or R.J. Mahurin on the perimeter if the defense does come in. Wichita State had the luxury, however, of keeping either 7-footer Garrett Stutz or Carl Hall at 6-feet-8 in near Odum to force an even tougher layup, and still could keep Murray and Demetric Williams on the perimeter to guard against the kickout shot. Despite a nize buzzer-beating superhoop from Dwayne Lathan, the halftime margin stood at 40-19.
The second half began with an inspired 9-0 Sycamore run. Just when some thought this game might get close to being interesting again, WSU's Joe Ragland nailed a three, squashing the Tree run, the Sycamores' resolve, and the hopes for a good game. Within four minutes, the Shocker lead was back to 20, and would linger there for the remainder of the game.
Indiana State slowly left to cheers from their smaller army of fans, with an 18-14 record and hopes of at least a ghost bracket berth in their minds. Odum, just a sophomore, will have two more trips to St. Louis, but the Missouri Valley careers of Jordan Printy, Dwayne Lathan, Carl Richard and Myles Walker ended on this day.
Meanwhile, the Wichita State faithful rose to give their team a standing ovation as they left the court after earning a very-much expected advancement to the semi-finals, again showing themselves to be at the top of the Valley this season.
WICHITA STATE 72, INDIANA STATE 48 03/02/2012
INDIANA STATE 18-14 (8-10) -- C. Richard 1-8 4-4 6; M. Walker 1-4 0-0 2; D. Lathan 3-8 2-4 9; J. Odum 2-9 2-2 6; S. McWhorter 2-5 1-2 6; J. Printy 2-7 0-0 6; R. Mahurin 2-7 4-7 9; L. Eitel 0-1 0-0 0; J. Gant 1-2 2-2 4; J. Kitchell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-52 15-21 48. WICHITA STATE 27-4 (16-2) -- D. Williams 4-7 0-0 10; T. Murry 6-13 2-2 14; J. Ragland 6-8 0-0 14; B. Smith 3-7 1-1 8; G. Stutz 3-6 0-0 6; C. Hall 3-7 0-2 6; D. Kyles 2-5 0-0 5; T. Cotton 3-5 0-0 7; J. White 0-2 0-0 0; E. Orukpe 1-1 0-0 2; J. Anacreon 0-0 0-0 0; E. Wessell 0-1 0-0 0; R. Vautravers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-62 3-5 72.
Three-point goals: INST 5-22 (J. Printy 2-6; D. Lathan 1-4; C. Richard 0-3; L. Eitel 0-1; J. Odum 0-1; R. Mahurin 1-4; S. McWhorter 1-3), WICH 7-14 (D. Kyles 1-2; G. Stutz 0-1; D. Williams 2-3; J. Ragland 2-3; B. Smith 1-3; T. Cotton 1-1; J. White 0-1); Rebounds: INST 22 (D. Lathan 6), WICH 40 (G. Stutz 12); Assists: INST 5 (C. Richard 2), WICH 15 (J. Ragland 5); Total Fouls -- INST 10, WICH 18; Fouled Out: INST-None; WICH-None.